Saudi Arabia's diplomatic dispute with Canada: An explainer

Analysis
              
                
       Screenshot

Analysis Screenshot

In the wake of Canada calling for the release of detained civil rights activists, Saudi Arabia's state airline has suspended all direct flights to and from Toronto.

The United States said Tuesday that both Canada and Saudi Arabia are "close partners" of the USA, and asked the Saudi government for more information of the detention of several activists.

As a result of the Canadian government tweets, Saudi Arabia expelled Canada's ambassador to the country, Dennis Horak, and recalled its envoy in Canada.

On Friday, the Canadian Foreign Ministry called for the release of women's rights activists Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sadah, who were arrested on July 30th, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

"The students have been asked by the kingdom of Saudi Arabia to continue their studies if they are now registered in the spring and summer session, but to deregister or cancel their registration for the fall of 2018 and to leave Canada within four weeks of the departure of the Canadian ambassador to Riyadh", said Livia Castellanos, the university's associate vice-president (international).

Thomas Juneau, an assistant professor at the University of Ottawa's Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, estimated the overall trade relationship between Canada and Saudi Arabia totals between $3 and $4 billion a year.

In recent months Saudi Arabia has lifted a ban on women driving, but it has also arrested activists, including more than a dozen high-profile campaigners for women's rights.

Saudi Arabia's diplomatic spat with Canada prompted a tweet that touched a raw nerve in the kingdom: a photomontage of an Air Canada plane heading toward the iconic CN Tower in Toronto.

"The only class of wheat that Canada still exports to the region is durum but even that is not that much".

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UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said in a tweet on Monday that he stands with Saudi Arabia in "defending its sovereignty and laws".

Nauert declined to denounce Saudi Arabia's detainment of the Badawi sisters.

Traders said they had received an official notice from the Saudi Grains Organization (SAGO) about its decision.

Besides having immediate effects on global relations and students on exchange between the two countries, the Canada-Saudi tension could mean some serious economic problems for Canada.

"I'm very surprised that this decision has been made so quickly, especially because many of them have not concluded their studies", she said. "Canada and all other nations need to know that they can't claim to be more concerned than the kingdom over its own citizens".

Today is a really good day for the United States to reconsider its seemingly boundless support for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. "We are always going to speak up for human rights; we're always going to speak up for women's rights; and that is not going to change", she told reporters in Vancouver on Monday.

The issue that led to this diplomatic impasse involves Saudi police arresting human-rights activist Samar Badawi and others last week.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has stopped all the scholarship, training and fellowship programs to Canada.

Strangely, in spite of all this, Saudi Arabia and the United States are still strategic allies.

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