US, EU seek details of Saudi arrests but dodge Canada spat

Galtero Lara
Agosto 10, 2018

Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir - infuriated by Canada's demand last week that jailed rights activists be released immediately - said earlier on Wednesday that there was no room for mediation, adding that Ottawa knew what it needed to do to "fix its big mistake".

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

Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Adel Aljubeir released a short statement on Twitter Monday saying that Canada was basing its assessment on "misleading information" and that Saudi Arabia "will not accept any attempt to interfere in its internal affairs".

"Instead of pursuing human rights reform, the government of Saudi Arabia has chosen to lash out with punitive measures in the face of criticism", said Samah Hadid, Amnesty International's Middle East Director of Campaigns.

"Canada stands together with the Badawi family in this hard time, and we continue to strongly call for the release of both Raif and Samar Badawi", Freeland tweeted.

In recent months Saudi Arabia has lifted a ban on women driving, but it has also arrested activists, including more than a dozen high-profile campaigners for women's rights.

Canada had been eager to boost investment and exports to Saudi Arabia as the kingdom diversifies its economy.

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.

"Saudi Arabia is shooting itself in the foot".

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It all started with a tweet from Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland.

"After "disciplining" domestic critics through warnings & arrests (Saudi Arabia is) seeking to use economic leverage & diplomatic actions to discipline foreign critics as well", tweeted Kristin Diwan, of the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington. The Saudi government also banned new trade with Canada, although it was unclear if it would affect existing annual Saudi-Canadian trade of almost $4 billion and a $13 billion defence contract.

Since the diplomatic feud erupted on Sunday, the federal Liberal government has said it stands by its decision to communicate its human-rights concerns with Saudi Arabia.

Weeks called the development "unfortunate" and added university presidents from across Canada will gather via a conference call later this week to get a better sense of what the possible impact will be.

Freeland said Monday in Vancouver that there was "nothing new or novel" about Canada's long-standing position on human rights around the world, and that Ottawa is awaiting more details from the kingdom before responding further.

"That for Saudi Arabia was the source of growing frustration", he said in a phone interview.

"I'm very surprised that this decision has been made so quickly, especially because many of them have not concluded their studies", she said. Her brother's wife, Ensaf Haidar, lives in Canada and recently became a Canadian citizen. "We can't do it for them", said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert.

"Saudi Arabia simply can not afford to alienate any other sections of the global community in the midst of its unpopular military engagement in Yemen, its indirect confrontation with Iran", commentator Jamal Khashoggi wrote in the Washington Post.

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