Saudi Arabia Expels Canada’s Ambassador, Freezes Trade over ‘Blatant Interference’

Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud speaks during the opening session of the Gulf Cooperation Council on May 14, 2014 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Hagel arrived in the Saudi Arabia, the first leg of a regional tour focusing on Iran's nuclear programme and Syria's civil war. AFP PHOTO/POOL/MANDEL NGAN …

Saudi Arabia  is freezing all new trade and investment with Canada over what it calls “blatant interference” in the Gulf kingdom’s internal affairs.

The Saudi foreign ministry made the announcement in a series of Tweets, adding it had given the Canadian ambassador just 24 hours to leave the country while at the same time recalling its own envoy in Canada.

“The Canadian position is an overt and blatant interference in the internal affairs of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the Saudi Foreign Ministry said in an extraordinary statement posted on Twitter.

It referred to last week’s statement by the Canadian foreign ministry, which urged Riyadh to “immediately release” civil society and women’s rights activists.

Among those recently arrested is Samar Badawi, whose brother Raif Badawi was arrested in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and later sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail for criticizing clerics. His wife, Ensaf Haidar, is now living in Canada.

The Saudi ministry described Canada’s position as “an attack” on the kingdom, saying it would now:

  • Freeze all new trade and investment transactions between the two countries
  • Consider the Canadian ambassador persona non grata and order the envoy to leave within 24 hours
  • Recall the Saudi envoy in Canada
  • Reserve the right to take further action

Canada’s government responded to Saudi Arabia’s diplomatic measures with Marie-Pier Baril, a spokeswoman for Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, saying Canada was “seriously concerned” by Saudi Arabia’s actions.

“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.”

Bilateral trade between the two nations reached $3 billion in 2016, with tanks and fighting vehicles among the top Canadian exports to the kingdom, according to government statistics.

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