Saudi airline stops flights to Canada amid escalating diplomatic row

08 August, 2018, 00:35 | Author: Essie Rivera
  • Saudi Arabia Expels Canadian Ambassador, To Withdraw Students From Canada Over Women's Rights Criticism

Saudi Arabian airlines announced the suspension flights to and from Toronto from August 13 in the latest escalation in the diplomatic spat that broke out earlier this week.

The moves were a stern rebuke to Canada after the country on Friday expressed concern over the arrests of activists in Saudi Arabia, including prominent women's rights campaigner Samar Badawi, and called for their release.

The office of Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland did not respond to requests for comment. It also suspended new trade dealings with Canada.

Saudi Arabia froze new trade and investment with Canada and expelled the Canadian ambassador, in a stern gesture of retaliation after Ottawa urged it to free arrested civil society activists.

The rift between the federal government and Saudi Arabia has prompted the country's state airline to suspend operations in Canada.

The report also said all Saudi Arabian students now studying in Canada will be transferred to other countries.

Samar's brother, blogger Raif Badawi, was arrested in 2012 and sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail for "insulting Islam" in a case that sparked an worldwide outcry.

Canada's largest refinery in Saint John, N.B., owned by Irving Oil, relies on Saudi Arabia for almost 40 per cent of its crude supply, according 2018 statistics from the National Energy Board.

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Last week, human-rights activist Samar Badawi and others were arrested by Saudi police.

The Saudi Foreign Ministry took exception to the wording of the tweet, calling it an attempt by Canada to interfere with the country's internal affairs.

Canada said it was "seriously concerned" by the escalation but vowed to continue to "stand up for human rights in Canada and around the world".

Prince Mohammed, heir to the region's most powerful throne, has introduced a string of reforms such as lifting a decades-long ban on women drivers in a bid to overhaul the kingdom's austere image. "And of course, Irving sells most of its product into the United States, not Canada", he said.

Amnesty International noted Ms Badawi has been repeatedly targeted and interrogated by Saudi security forces for her human rights activist. "Canada stands together with the Badawi family in this hard time, and we continue to strongly call for the release of both Raif and Samar Badawi".

"These countries are able to host the students, and we at the ministry are committed to facilitating the students' transfers so they can easily complete their education", he said.

When asked about the contract, Freeland said the government "looks forward" to hearing from Riyadh about the future of the deal.

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