PETALING JAYA: Malaysia and Saudi Arabia are set to strengthen ties with Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein flying to the Gulf state on Wednesday (Jan 17).
Among issues expected to be discussed during the visit include haj and umrah quotas.
"I am looking forward to the visit to further bring Malaysia and Saudi Arabia closer together," he told The Star on Tuesday (Jan 16).
He will be meeting his counterpart Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud on Thursday (Feb 18).
Hishammuddin said that strict standard operating procedures will be in place for the visit.
Asked if Malaysians will have the opportunity to perform haj and umrah this year, Hishammuddin said it would be up to the Saudi government.
"But we are eager to look into the possibility of more Malaysians being able to perform their pilgrimage," he said.
On Feb 3, the Saudi government suspended the entry of people from 20 countries, namely, Argentina, the United Arab Emirates, Germany, the United States, Indonesia, Italy, Pakistan, United Kingdom, Turkey, Sweden, France, Lebanon, Egypt, India, Japan, Ireland, Brazil, Portugal, Switzerland and South Africa.
Malaysia was not on the list of 20 countries temporarily banned from Saudi Arabia as a measure to curb the spread of Covid-19.
Saudi Arabia has also delayed the opening of its air, sea, and land border till May 17.
Last year, it allowed only around 10,000 pilgrims to participate in the haj.
It has scaled-back the annual ritual due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Authorities there have yet to announce it will proceed with this year’s haj, which usually starts in July.