Saudi Arabia's row with Canada: Silencing Western criticism?

Cheryl Sanders
August 10, 2018

The United Arab Emirates, a strong regional ally, supported the Saudi response to Canada, with a senior government official calling Ottawa's behavior 'unacceptable'.

In another explicit display of the country's displeasure with Canada, Saudi Arabia's state airline has suspended all flights to and from Toronto. Countries in the Middle East are not exactly known for men supporting women in living their best lives.

The Saudi government on Sunday recalled its ambassador from Ottawa, barred Canada's ambassador to Riyadh and placed a ban on new trade.

"Any other attempt to interfere with our internal affairs from Canada, means that we are allowed to interfere in Canada's internal affairs, " the Saudi government said.

Speaking to reporters in Vancouver on Monday, Freeland said Canada is "very comfortable" with its position that led to the new measures announced by Saudi Arabia. Canadian officials say they'll also seek help from the United Arab Emirates, who will nearly certainly take the side of Saudi Arabia. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were citizens of Saudi Arabia, and Saudi royals have always been accused of complicity in the attack.

A State Deparment official earlier in the day told the Agence France-Presse (AFP) that the USA has raised the issue with Saudi Arabia.

A Reuters report, quoting a State Department official, said the U.S. has urged the Saudis to respect due process, in the first comments by Washington since the dispute erupted between Riyadh and Ottawa over the arrest of rights campaigners. Samar was recently arrested for her vocal protests and activism against the repressive "male guardianship system" within Saudi Arabia for which she won the U.S. International Women of Courage Award in 2012.

"The only people buying oil from Saudi Arabia would be Irving".

The most high-profile case - and the one specifically referenced by Canadian Global Affairs - is that of Saudi activist Samar Badawi and her blogger brother Raif Badawi.

Saudi Arabia said Monday it was expelling the Canadian ambassador and recalling its envoy while freezing all new trade, in retaliation for Ottawa's vigorous calls for the release of jailed activists. "We're always going to speak up for woman's rights and that's not going to change", she said, adding that it wasn't the first time Canada has spoken out about human rights in Saudi Arabia", she said.

Niagara College was expecting 40 students from Saudi Arabia to arrive for the fall term.

Critics of the Saudis claim Riyadh is trying to flex its muscles internationally and has overreacted to a comment Friday by Canada's leading foreign affairs agency, Global Affairs Canada. Both the Saudi and Canadian ambassadors were away on leave when it was made.

Dan McTeague, a senior analyst at the fuel price tracking website GasBuddy, said any such disruption could easily be offset by alternative supply, as Saudi Arabia's oil continues to represent an increasingly small portion of Canada's crude imports. In 2015, Riyadh recalled its ambassador to Sweden and stopped issuing work visas for Swedes after the European Union member country's foreign minister described the Badawi court decision as "medieval" and the kingdom's ruling Saud family as presiding over a "dictatorship".

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