Saudi Arabia rules out mediation in Canada row, mulls new measures

Hugh Fox
August 8, 2018

What began with a statement of concern over human rights has ballooned into the biggest diplomatic feud in years between Canada and Saudi Arabia.

The first seeds of dissension were sown by a tweet from Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland on Thursday which criticised Saudi's detainment of human right activists including Samar Badawi in Riyadh and called for their immediate release.

Saudi Arabia announced it was suspending future trade with Canada and severing diplomatic ties. Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland, whose tweet sparked the hostility, said that "Canada will continue to advocate for human rights and for the courageous women and men who push for these fundamental rights around the world" after Saudi's response.

But she said: "At the same time, we hope that Saudi Arabia and Canada will find a civilized solution to their differences".

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According to a report in the Financial Times, Saudi Arabia has started selling Canadian assets en masse, including stocks and bonds.

The execution came during a deepening dispute between the two countries sparked by Canadian criticism of how Saudi Arabia is treating jailed activists.

The Canadian currency dropped as much as 0.5 per cent to 76.21 U.S. cents after the Financial Times reported that the Saudi Arabia central bank and state pension funds have instructed their overseas asset managers to dispose of Canadian assets starting Tuesday.

"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. On Tuesday, Minister of Education Dr. Ahmed Al-Eissa assured Saudi scholarship students in Canada that the Kingdom has worked to provide all facilities for an easy transfer to universities in other countries.

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European traders said the main Saudi wheat-buying agency had told grains exporters it will no longer accept Canadian-origin wheat and barley.

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to hold a news conference in Montreal.

Bin Salman is the second most senior member of the Saudi regime, which has one of the worst human rights records in the world.

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