Saudi Arabia will grant visas to Syrians wishing to perform the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, set to begin next week, the Saudi ambassador to Lebanon said on Wednesday.
Riyadh, a bastion of Sunni Islam, has been one of the staunchest supporters of the revolt against Syria's President Bashar Assad. The majority of Syria's population is Sunni, while the regime is dominated by Alawites, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
"King Abdullah's instructions are aimed at facilitating procedures to grant visas to Syrian citizens wishing to perform the hajj, and they have been communicated to consulates and embassies in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan," Ali Awadh Asiri told Lebanon's National News Agency.
"A special department has been opened at the embassy in Beirut to offer all the necessary services to grant visas," he said.
Asiri added that the Saudi king "grants special attention to the well-being of Syrian citizens."
Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq currently host a total of at least 300,000 Syrian refugees who fled the deadly conflict that has ravaged their homeland, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
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