Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will take part in the meeting of the 57-member pan-Muslim Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, which will be focused on the Syrian conflict among other topics, Iran's Mehr news agency reported on Monday.
“Following the Saudi king’s invitation to the Islamic Republic of Iran’s president to participate in the meeting of the Islamic countries which is going to be held in Mecca, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s president will participate in the conference,” the head of the international affairs in Ahmadinejad’s administration, Mohammad Reza Forqani, told Mehr news agency.
Iran and Saudi Arabia remain at loggerheads because of their stances on Syria. Iran, Syria’s closest ally in the region, has repeatedly voiced support for President Bashar al-Assad while the Saudis have called to arm the Syrian opposition.
Saudi King Abdullah invited Ahmadinejad to the conference that will be held August 15-16, despite the growing tensions between the Sunni-dominated kingdom and predominantly Shiite Islamic republic, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
On Saturday, 48 Iranian pilgrims who were traveling on a bus from Damascus International Airport to the Hazrat Zainab shrine on the outskirts of Damascus were abducted by armed insurgents.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi has called on Turkey and Qatar to help to release the kidnapped Iranians.
The Syrian conflict has claimed 14,000-20,000 lives since March 2011, according to estimates by various opposition groups and the UN. The West is pushing for Assad’s ouster, while Russia and China are trying to prevent outside interference in the country, claiming the Assad regime and the opposition are both to blame for the bloodshed.