Muslims pray at the Grand mosque ahead of the annual Haj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, August 29, 2017. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem
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In a diplomatic icebreaker between political foes, tens of thousands of Muslim faithful from Iran have flocked to Saudi Arabia for the annual hajj pilgrimage to Islam's holiest sites. This week's hajj marks Iran's return after their absence last year following a massive stampede in 2015 that killed around 2,300 people, including 464 Iranians.For the first time in nearly three decades, Iranian pilgrims were barred from the hajj last year, after several rounds of negotiations between the two Gulf heavyweights failed to overcome political and procedural differences.In the absence of diplomatic relations and with its missions in Iran closed, Saudi Arabia agreed to issue electronic visas for Iranian pilgrims.Saudi Arabia has also allowed Iran's national carrier Iran Air to fly in most of the Islamic Republic's pilgrims, while some were transported by the kingdom's carrier.
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