Published: Fri, August 10, 2018
Business | By Eloise Houston

Saudi Arabia to suspend Toronto flights as spat with Canada continues

Saudi Arabia to suspend Toronto flights as spat with Canada continues

Saudi Arabia on Monday expelled Canada's ambassador and recalled its own envoy while freezing all new trade and investments, after Ottawa denounced a new crackdown on women and human rights activists in the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia notably was angry with Canada for demanding that Riyadh "immediately release" some of the detained activists.

Riyadh on Sunday recalled its ambassador from Canada and gave the Canadian ambassador 24 hours to leave.

Saudi Arabia has made several aggresive political moves against Canada over the past few days after the Canadian Foreign Policies Twitter account tweeted concern over the kingdom's human rights abuses.

Saudi Arabia is selling Canadian assets in an escalating row after Ottawa criticised the arrest of a female activist, the Financial Times reported on Wednesday, citing sources.

Analysts say the dispute between Riyadh and Ottawa shows Saudi Arabia won't accept any outside criticism and will continue flexing its muscles overseas, especially as the kingdom enjoys a closer relationship with President Donald Trump.

While both countries are friends of the US, "both sides need to diplomatically resolve this together", State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told a media briefing later Tuesday.

Among the arrested activists is Samar Badawi, whose writer brother Raif Badawi was arrested in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and later sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison for insulting Islam while blogging.

The Saudi-Canadian trade consists largely of Saudi exports of petrochemicals, plastics and other products.

Tanks, armored vehicles and parts and motor vehicles accounted for about 45% of Canada's 2016 exports to the kingdom, while crude oil and copper ores comprised about 98% of imports, according to a government report.

A number of countries in the region have defended Saudi Arabia.

On Monday, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir criticised Canada's calls to free arrested civil society activists as a position built on "misleading" information.

"Particularly in smaller and rural institutions where many of our Canadian students don't necessarily have the opportunities of living in a large urban centre where they would be exposed to many different types of cultural experiences, it's even more important for us that we bring that kind of diversity to our campus", Weeks said.

Canada has long pressed Saudi Arabia for the release of jailed blogger Raif Badawi, after granting asylum in 2013 to his wife and their three children.

"We are always going to speak up for human rights, we are always going to speak up for women's rights and that is not going to change, " Freeland said in Vancouver.

Canada said it was seeking "clarity".

Media captionSaudi Arabia's permanent representative to the United Nations confirmed the change in policy What has the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Canada been like in the past? Not surprisingly, Bahrain and the UAE have joined Saudi Arabia's side of the argument.

"The Saudis have seriously inconvenienced 15,000 of their citizens in order to make a point and, given the unpredictability of Saudi foreign policy, I think it's anyone's guess what might happen to that deal".

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