Canada asking allies to help cool Saudi dispute


Saudi Arabia stunned officials on Sunday by announcing it was suspending future trade with Canada and severing diplomatic ties.

Travel to the country will also be affected in light of an announcement from Saudia Airlines on Tuesday that it will suspend flights to and from Canada starting August 13.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a loose association of the six Gulf Arab countries, the Arab League and Palestine also supported Saudi policy.

Over the weekend Saudi Arabia declared the recall as well as a freeze on new trade with Canada following a tweet last week from Global Affairs Canada that expressed concerns about the arrest of activists in the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia is pulling thousands of Saudi students out of Canada in retaliation after a Canadian official criticized the country's human rights record.

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Egypt said it stands in "solidarity" with the Saudis against Canadian meddling, while Bahrain accused Canada of attempting to undermine Saudi Arabia's sovereignty. They said Canada "plans to seek help from the United Arab Emirates and Britain" in easing tensions with Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has claimed that the arrests targeted those who sought to "destabilize the Kingdom", and were done by following the country's legal guidelines.

"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. In 2014, the Canadian unit of USA weapons maker General Dynamics Corp won a contract worth up to $13 billion to build light-armoured vehicles for Saudi Arabia, in what Ottawa said was the largest advanced manufacturing export win in Canadian history.

Momani called it, "getting tough on Canada", which she said other countries in the region might welcome if they view Canadian foreign policy to be led by human rights concerns.

The accounts, which are followed by a number of Saudi diplomatic figures, are verified and largely share government announcements and pro-Riyadh messages.

Canada's previous Conservative government, which lost power to the Liberals in 2015, also had challenges with Riyadh over human rights.

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Samar Badawi is the sister-in-law of Raif Badawi's wife Ensaf Haidar, who lives in Canada and recently became a Canadian citizen. Saudi Arabia ended in June its long practice of not allowing women to drive automobiles in the Sunni kingdom.

"We will always speak up for human rights, we will always speak up for women's rights around the world", she told reporters in Vancouver.

"I think they are concerned because they are uncertain". Canada's ambassador, Dennis Horak, is not in Riyadh. His wife, Ensaf Haidar, lives in Canada and received Canadian citizenship in July at a Canada Day ceremony with their three children.

'We consider the Canadian ambassador to the kingdom persona non grata and order him to leave within the next 24 hours'.

Samar Badawi is a famed women's right activist and is the sister of Raif Badawi, a blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years for insulting Islam by a Saudi Arabian court in 2014.

Freeland also commented briefly on reports that Saudi Arabia is cancelling scholarships for more than 15,000 Saudi students attending university in Canada, saying it would be a "shame" if those students lost the opportunity to study in Canada.

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Another activist, Badawi's brother Raif, has been incarcerated since 2012.