Saudi Arabia severs ties with Canada over Ottawa 'interference'

Chrystia Freeland

Chrystia Freeland

The Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on Sunday, recalling its ambassador in Canada for consultation, and declared the Ambassador of Canada persona non-grata, giving him 24 hours to leave.

Saudi Arabia will suspend new trade and investment with Canada after that country's foreign ministry urged Riyadh to release arrested civil rights activists, it said in a statement released to the official Saudi Press Agency on Sunday.

Riyadh said Canada's statement about "civil society activists" was negative and unfair to the truth.

The ministry denounces Canada's stance as "explicit interference in the internal affairs" of the kingdom that runs "contrary to the most basic global norms and charters that govern relations between countries".

"We urge the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful #humanrights activists", the Canadian embassy tweeted on Friday.

The Saudi statement said it confirmed its commitment to refrain from intervening in the internal matters of other countries, including Canada, and in return rejected any intervention in its domestic affairs and internal relations with its citizens. Some 10 % of Canadian crude oil imports come from Saudi Arabia. More than a dozen women's rights activists have been targeted since May.

Amnesty International said the arrest of Samar Badawi and another prominent female activist, Nassima al-Sada, was part of a larger crackdown on human rights in Saudi Arabia.

But the 32-year-old has simultaneously pursued a hawkish foreign policy - including leading a blockade of neighbouring Qatar and a bombing campaign against Iran-backed Huthis in Yemen - while cracking down on dissent at home.

The Saudis said they will "put on hold all new business and investment transactions with Canada while retaining its right to take further action".

In April, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed his "serious concern" over the continued jailing of Badawi to Saudi King Salman. His wife, Ensaf Haidar, is now living in Canada.

The Canadian envoy in Riyadh is no longer welcome.

Saudi Arabia has frozen all trade/investment developments with Canada.

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