Canada Seeks Allies' Help in Cooling Saudi Tensions

Canada Seeks Allies' Help in Cooling Saudi Tensions

Canada Seeks Allies' Help in Cooling Saudi Tensions

Within a day, Saudi Arabia expelled the Canadian ambassador, froze all new investment, and canceled all flights to Toronto.

In a sign of the escalating situation, Riyadh also ordered Saudi students studying in Canada out of the country.

Advertisment Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic and trade ties with Canada over the weekend after the Canadian government in Ottawa called for the release of several women's rights activists who are imprisoned in the Middle Eastern country.

Canada says it does not know what will happen to a $13 billion defense contract to sell Canadian-made General Dynamics Corp armored vehicles to Saudi Arabia.

Morneau's comments reiterated the position expressed Monday by Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, but did not directly address the larger question of what sort of lasting economic impact the dispute could have, including on Canada's $15-billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia. Officials said on state television that there are more than 12,000 Saudi students and family members in Canada, and that many will be transferred to other countries, including the United States.

The Toronto Star reported that in the past year, Canada sent 135,000 tonnes of barley to Saudi Arabia, a significant part of the 1.9 million tonnes of Canada's barley exports each year, and 70,000 tonnes of wheat, a smaller portion of the 16.5 million tonnes of wheat that Canada exported.

"Any further step from the Canadian side in that direction will be considered as acknowledgment of our right to interfere in Canadian domestic affairs", the Foreign Ministry said.

Amnesty International has said Badawi, the sister of jailed blogger Raif Badawi, was recently detained along with Nassima al-Sada, another prominent female activist.

Saudi Arabia will withdraw all of its students studying in Canada in an intensifying rift between the two countries over the Kingdom's human rights record.

Canada is planning to seek help from Saudi Arabia's closest ally, the UAE, and Britain to defuse the dispute which looks set to damage what is a modest bilateral trade relationship worth almost $4 billion a year. It follows Ottawa's rebuke of Riyadh for the arrest of a number of human rights activists. "We are always going to speak up for human rights, we're always going to speak up for women's rights, and that is not going to change".

The dispute with Canada has shed light on scores of political and rights activists arrested in Saudi Arabia over the last two years.

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

Thirty-four Saudi students enrolled for the upcoming academic season starting in September are also expected to be affected.

Canada last week said it was "gravely concerned" over a new wave of arrests, including award-winning gender rights activist Samar Badawi, pictured left.

Saudi neighbours Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have voiced solidarity with Riyadh, according to media reports.

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