Saudi dispute not expected to have much impact on TRU after all

Charlene Craig
August 10, 2018

The United States and the European Union said on Tuesday that they are seeking details about the arrest of women's rights activists in Saudi Arabia, but they sidestepped a sensitive diplomatic dispute over the crackdown between the ultraconservative kingdom and Canada.

The United States said Tuesday that both Canada and Saudi Arabia are "close partners" of the USA, and asked the Saudi government for more information of the detention of several activists.

Saudi Arabia has said it is freezing all new trade with Canada and expelling its ambassador over its "interference" in the kingdom's domestic affairs.

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

Cairo's foreign ministry said on its Facebook page that it was "concerned by the crisis between Saudi Arabia and Canada, which is a result of the negative tendency by some worldwide. sides to meddle in the internal affairs of countries in the region", without elaborating.

Informed sources disclosed to Okaz that the Ministry of Education is coordinating with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other related authorities to prepare an urgent plan to transfer all the Saudi students in the various programs to other countries. In little more than a year, the kingdom has led a four-country coalition that severed ties with neighbouring Qatar, recalled its ambassador to Germany and cut back its trade dealings with some German companies amid a diplomatic row.

"The Canadian government didn't respect the Saudi law", the group said.

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Triggered by Ottawa's comments expressing concern over the arrests of activists in Saudi Arabia, the dispute shows no sign of end with the Kingdom announcing one action after another to escalate the row between the two U.S. allies.

A state-run news organization is reporting the kingdom is cutting off scholarship and fellowship programs to about 15,000 students now taking classes in Canada.

"Saudi Arabia has taken a very public stand emphasizing the decisiveness of their leadership in defending their sovereignty" Ms Diwan said.

"It's estimated to be about 100,000 (barrels per day), and that's down over the past two years", McTeague said of Saudi Arabia's oil exports to Canada.

How did Saudi Arabia react?

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

Badawi's wife and children now live in Canada.

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Along with throwing out the Canadian ambassador and suspending air service between the two countries, Saudi Arabia is demanding thousands of its students leave Canada for new locations.

Canada said it was "seriously concerned" by the escalation but vowed to continue to "stand up for human rights in Canada and around the world".

Saudia said it would be temporarily stopping inbound and outbound flights to Toronto Pearson International Airport - the only Canadian destination it serves - from August 13.

However, supporters of women's rights were arrested just weeks before the ban was lifted, signaling that only King Salman and his powerful son, Crown Prince Mohammed, will decide the pace of change.

The sources stressed that none of the Saudi students will remain in Canada during the 1439H (2018) summer.

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.

Armored tanks and personnel carriers have been Canada's biggest recent export to the kingdom. While total trade between Canada and Saudi Arabia averages around $4 billion annually, the market had been considered relatively stable by Canadian grain exporters, notably those who specialize in barley.

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"Bahrain regrets Canada's position, based on totally erroneous information that has nothing to do with reality on the ground", Bahrain's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

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