World Bulletin / News Desk
The Saudi government gave Canadian Ambassador Dennis Horak 24 hours to leave the Kingdom, while recalling its own ambassador home.
The move came after Canada urged the Saudis to “immediately release” two detained women’s rights activists, including the sister of jailed writer Raif Badawi, who was imprisoned in 2012 for insulting Islam on his blog. Badawi’s wife is a Canadian living in Montreal.
Through the severing of trade and diplomatic ties, the Kingdom is effectively telling Canada and other countries to keep their noses out of Saudi internal affairs.
“Any further step from the Canadian side in that direction will be considered as acknowledgement of our right to interfere in Canadian domestic affairs,” a statement from the Saudi Foreign Ministry said Monday. “Canada and all other nations need to know that they can’t claim to be more concerned than the kingdom over its own citizens.”
Canadian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Marie-Pier Baril said it would not kow-tow to the kingdom.
“Canada will always stand up for the protection of human rights, very much including women’s rights, and freedom of expression around the world, she said in a statement. “Our government will never hesitate to promote these values and believes that this dialogue is critical to international diplomacy.”
On Monday, Canada received support for its action as another player entered the fray.
“Amnesty International calls on global community to follow Canada’s lead in pushing Saudi Arabia to release detained rights activists. Singles out USA, UK, France as countries that have significant influence in Saudi Arabia, but have remained silent for far too long,” the rights group tweeted.
Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland may have set off the row in a tweet on Thursday.
“Very alarmed to learn that Samar Badawi, Raif Badawi’s sister, has been imprisoned in Saudi Arabia,” the tweet said. “Canada stands together with the Badawi family in this difficult time, and we continue to strongly call for the release of both Raif and Samar Badawi.”
Middle East analysts suggested the tiff with Canada proves that the Saudis, perhaps emboldened by a warm relationship with U.S. President Donald Trump, will not brook interference in their domestic issues.
“This message is obviously not just being sent to (the Canadian capital of) Ottawa,” said Giorgio Cafiero, chief executive officer of Gulf State Analytics, based in Washington. “It’s a message to countries in Europe and across the rest of the world that criticism of Saudi Arabia has consequences.”
Canada imports about 10 percent of its oil requirements from Saudi Arabia and the two countries do about US$3 billion in total trade.