TEHRAN (Press Shia Agency) – Iranian First Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri expressed his gratitude to the people and government of Iraq for hosting Iranian pilgrims visiting the Arab country during the Arbaeen season, and said the event has “opened the gate” for closer ties between the two nations.

“The opportunity provided by the presence of millions of Iranian pilgrims in Iraq has many financial and spiritual effects,” Jahangiri said at a Tuesday meeting with the governor general of Iraq’s Najaf Province, Sayyed Jawad al-Yaseri.

Therefore, the occasion should be commemorated forever, the Iranian first vice president added.

“The spiritual ceremonies and marches marking Arbaeen have opened the gate for more mutual understanding and friendship between the two nations of Iran and Iraq,” he noted.

The Iraqi official, for his part, said it is an honor for the people of Iraq to host the Shiite pilgrims, including Iranians, adding that Arbaeen plays an essential role in the consolidation of bilateral relations between Tehran and Baghdad.

Iraqi sources quoted the deputy governor of Karbala, Ali al-Mayali, as saying that more than 10 million pilgrims have traveled to the province over the past days to attend the Arbaeen mourning rituals.

According to al-Mayali, more than 1.6 million pilgrims have gone to Karbala from other countries through land border crossings or the city of Najaf’s airport.

Arbaeen, one of the largest religious gatherings in the world, comes 40 days after Ashura, the martyrdom anniversary of the third Shiite Imam, Imam Hussein (AS).

Each year, a huge crowd of Shiites flock to Karbala, where the holy shrine of Imam Hussein (AS) is located, to perform mourning rites.