Saudi Arabia's state airline to suspend Canadian operations starting Aug. 13

Hugh Fox
August 10, 2018

Saudi Arabia said on Wednesday it had stopped all medical treatment programs in Canada and was working on the transfer of all Saudi patients from hospitals there, in an escalating row after Ottawa urged it to free rights activists.

Saudi Arabia retaliated Monday by expelling the Canadian ambassador and froze new business with Ottawa as a sign of the kingdom's newly aggressive foreign policy.

The official Twitter account of Global Affairs Canada also sent out a tweet, on Friday, Aug. 3: "Canada is gravely concerned about additional arrests of civil society and women's rights activists in #SaudiArabia, including Samar Badawi". She is a Canadian citizen whose brother, Raif Badawi, a blogger who was critical of the government, was already in jail in the Saudi kingdom.

Riyadh shot back, lashing out at what it described as "a blatant interference in the Kingdom's domestic affairs, against basic global norms and all worldwide protocols".

Riyadh accuses Ottawa of meddling Riyadh accused Ottawa on Tuesday of interfering in its internal affairs. Matt Pascuzzo said the Canadian government is in constant contact with Saudi Arabia and still waiting to get all the facts from the Saudis.

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

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Canada's relationship with Saudi Arabia has been cordial in the past, which has sometimes stoked controversy at home.

How did Saudi Arabia react?

The Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs responded by expressing concern over Saudi Arabia's actions, but resolving to stand their ground.

The dispute appears centred around tweets by Canadian diplomats calling on the kingdom to "immediately release" detained women's rights activists. Raif Badawi's wife lives in Quebec, in Canada.

Later, airline Saudia suspended all flights to and from Toronto and Riyadh said it will relocate the thousands of Saudi students studying in Canada.

We consider the Canadian ambassador to the kingdom persona non grata and order him to leave within the next 24 hours, ' the Saudi foreign ministry tweeted early Monday.

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"We want to continue to talk about the fact that women and men should have equality in this country and other countries", she said.

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

The president of Okanagan College said the school estimates that if its 65 new and returning students from Saudi Arabia don't attend the school next year, its revenue will decrease by $850,000.

"Clearly the aggressive reaction of the Saudi government shows that it's been disturbed", she added.

Canada says it does not know what will happen to a $13bn defence contract to sell Canadian-made General Dynamics Corp armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia.

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