Published: Wed, August 08, 2018
Global Media | By Garry Long

Saudia suspends flights to Canada, escalating diplomatic spat

Saudia suspends flights to Canada, escalating diplomatic spat

The first Canadian source said Ottawa had no regrets about speaking out on human rights in Saudi Arabia.

"Canadians expect our foreign policy to be driven by and to embody Canadian values, and that is how we intend to continue our foreign policy".

It is unclear what, if any, implications the move has for existing trade ties between the two countries.

Saudi Arabia's main state wheat buying agency has told grains exporters it will no longer buy Canadian wheat and barley in its global tenders, European traders said on Tuesday, as a diplomatic dispute between the two countries escalates.

Saudi Arabia expelled the Canadian ambassador, recalled its ambassador to Canada, and put trade deals between the two countries on ice.

In response, Canada's foreign affairs minister Chrystia Freeland said the government will not back down. "If you want to open up your country to the world, you don't start expelling ambassadors and freezing trade with countries such as Canada", said Joost Hiltermann, regional program director for the International Crisis Group.

Amnesty International noted Ms Badawi has been repeatedly targeted and interrogated by Saudi security forces for her human rights activist.

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Over the weekend, Saudi Arabia asked Canada's ambassador to leave the country, following Canada's criticism of the arrest of women's and civil rights activists in the Arab kingdom.

Canada tweeted that it was "gravely concerned" about a new wave of arrests of women's-rights activists in the kingdom, which angered Saudi Arabia and prompted the country to retaliate with a series of diplomatic measures aimed at signaling its strength. "We urge the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful #humanrights activists". Riyadh accused Ottawa on Tuesday of interfering in its internal affairs.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland was quoted by Reuters as saying to reporters on Monday that "it would be a shame for those students if they are deprived of the opportunity to study here".

Infographic KSA, a Saudi verified Twitter account that has more than 35,000 followers and another 88,000 on Instagram, tweeted on Monday an image that showed an Air Canada airplane heading toward Toronto's CN Tower.

In a tweet, Bessma Momani (expert on Middle East issues and a political science professor at the University of Waterloo) responded to this move, stating that this is terrible and unjust for students who will now be scrambling to figure out what to do with their lives.

At the same time, it sends a strong message to European and Middle Eastern countries not to "mess" with Saudi Arabia, Juneau said.

"I don't think it will worsen the situation because very often when we make evident unjust imprisonments, like the case of Samar Badawi, that increases their protection and increases pressure on the government", she said in an interview Monday.

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