Published: Fri, August 10, 2018
Economy | By

Saudi Arabia's diplomatic dispute with Canada: An explainer

Saudi Arabia's diplomatic dispute with Canada: An explainer

Some analysts perceive the move as both a power play for the kingdom's emerging young leader and a demonstration put on for the benefit of countries with stronger ties to Saudi Arabia than Canada.

It recalled its envoy from Ottawa and gave Canadian Ambassador Dennis Horak 24 hours to leave the country.

However, foreign ministry spokeswoman Marie-Pier Baril stressed that Canada would "always stand up for the protection of human rights. including women's rights, and freedom of expression around the world".

The sudden deterioration in the Saudi-Canadian relationship is likely grabbing the attention of people in the city of London, Ont., more than anywhere else in the country.

Analysts say the dispute between Riyadh and Ottawa shows Saudi Arabia won't accept any outside criticism and will continue flexing its muscles overseas, especially as the kingdom enjoys a closer relationship with President Donald Trump. "We can only stand with Saudi Arabia in defending its sovereignty and taking the necessary measures to protect its laws", Anwar Gargash, the minister of state for foreign affairs in the United Arab Emirates, tweeted Monday.

While department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said US officials have raised human rights concerns with the Saudis in the past, she stressed that Riyadh and Ottawa "need to diplomatically resolve this together".

In recent months Saudi Arabia has lifted a ban on women driving, but it has also arrested activists, including more than a dozen high profile campaigners for women's rights.

Saudi investments in Canada include G3 Global Holdings Ltd., a joint venture between Bunge Ltd. and Saudi Agricultural & Livestock Investment Co., which purchased the former Canadian Wheat Board in 2015.


According to Reuters, Saudi-Canadian trade consists largely of Saudi exports of petrochemicals, plastics and other products.

The first possible big hit Canada could suffer relates to the sale of light armored vehicles to the kingdom, worth CA$15 billion.

Last year, Canadian exports to Saudi Arabia were nearly $1.5 billion, while imports from the Middle Eastern country were about $2.6 billion.

"They might want to send a signal that they simply do not want to hear this anymore", said Steinberg.

Germany recently also learned of Saudi Arabia's displeasure of foreign criticism when its diplomats criticized the war in Yemen.

"I think it would be a shame for those students if they are deprived of their right to study here", Freeland said. The Saudi recall affects students receiving scholarships from that government. Niagara actually has campuses in Saudi Arabia, but says it's unaware of any impact on those operations.

St. Clair College said it has two students from Saudi Arabia, but they are not government-sponsored. The country also announced all new economic trade with Canada would be suspended.

"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.

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