BEIRUT: Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon Ghazanfar Roknabadi played down in comments published Monday a possible visit by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to Saudi Arabia during Hajj, saying the visit could occur following the Muslim religious pilgrimage.
“Due to the positivity [in ties] between Saudi Arabia and Iran, it would be possible to specify a date for the visit later and after the pilgrimage period,” Roknabadi told As-Safir daily.
“It is not necessary for the visit to take place during the pilgrimage period when there are a lot of visits by officials,” he added.
There have been conflicting reports over the possible visit by Rouhani to Saudi Arabia. Some reports said Rouhani would visit Saudi Arabia to perform the Hajj and meet with King Abdullah for talks on regional issues and bilateral ties. Others have denied a scheduled meeting between the two leaders.
Roknabadi said Rouhani’s visit to Saudi Arabia had not been decided or officially confirmed “to say that it had been canceled.”
“The invitation was not even addressed as the protocol stipulates. There were only talks about a desire that Rouhani would visit [Saudi Arabia] and the visit did not happen due to his [Rouhani’s] busy schedule.”
Mounting tensions in the ties between Riyadh and Tehran have long existed over the conflict in Syria, where the two regional heavyweights back opposing sides.