Sweden and Saudi Arabia have reportedly restored diplomatic ties when the two nations inked a new arms agreement over the weekend. Estimates state that canceling the arms deal would have had a negative impact of $1.3 billion dollars.
Stockholm and Riyadh had fallen out of favor earlier in March when both ambassadors left their respective host countries. Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Sweden will be arriving in Stockholm soon, just two weeks after he left the country following the diplomatic issues.
The diplomatic crisis started when Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom described the Saudi kingdom as a “dictatorship” that abuses women’s rights and carries out harsh punishments towards bloggers, according to reports.
Saudi officials saw the critique as an insult to Islam, largely because the Wahhabi kingdom follows the Koranic Sharia law system, and demanded an apology.
Governed under Sharia law, Saudi Arabia frequently carries out harsh punishments for those who insult Islam. Recently, a Saudi man was sentenced to death for ripping up a Koran and cursing Islam’s Muhammad.
“I am very pleased that we can resume our normal diplomatic ties,” Wallstrom told the media. “We can … welcome the Saudi ambassador back to Sweden (and) we can clear up the misunderstanding that we have insulted the religion of Islam,” she added.
Wallstrom said that she has “the greatest respect” for the religion of Islam and was merely criticizing Saudi Arabia’s policies, not the religion.
On Friday, Swedish government envoy Bjoern von Sydow met with Saudi King Salman in hopes of restoring relations. Sydow reportedly relayed apology messages from Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf and Prime Minister Stefan Loefven.