Saudi Arabia has stopped issuing business visas to Swedish citizens, according to Stockholm’s foreign ministry.
Furthermore, Riyadh will not renew the current visas of Swedish citizens living in Saudi Arabia, a senior Saudi official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
The Saudi official revealed that the decision came in response to Sweden’s recent criticism of Saudi Arabia’s record on human rights.
Sweden confirmed Saudi Arabia’s move.
“We have received information that Saudi Arabia has stopped giving business visa to Swedish citizens,” said Erik Boman, a spokesman for Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom, Reuters reports.
Riyadh’s move marks the latest developments of a diplomatic disagreement between the two countries stemming from Wallstrom’s criticism of Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses.
Following Sweden’s decision to end its long-standing defense cooperation pact with Riyadh, the Gulf Arab monarchy recalled its envoy to Stockholm earlier this month.
The Swedish foreign minister was expected to deliver a speech to the League of Arab States, but Saudi Arabia cancelled it.
Earlier this year, Wallstrom criticized Saudi Arabia on Twitter for flogging human rights activist blogger Raif Badawi, describing it as a “cruel attempt to silence modern forms of expression,” notes Reuters.
She expressed the same criticism during a speech in the Swedish Parliament, adds AP.
The Saudi blogger was convicted of insulting Islam on his blog.
Sweden’s foreign minister also condemned the manner in which women are treated in Saudi Arabia.
She referred to Saudi Arabia as “dictatorship” where “women’s rights are violated” and the Saudi royal family wields all the power.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) also recalled its ambassador to Sweden in a show of solidarity with its neighbor Saudi Arabia, notes AP.
Allies Saudi Arabia and the UAE are members of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a coalition of energy-rich Arab monarchies.
GCC’s secretary-general met with Sweden’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia to formally condemn the Swedish foreign minister’s remarks as “unacceptable interference in the internal affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”