Saudi Arabia blocks flights from Canada


Saudi Arabia will withdraw all of its students studying in Canada in an intensifying rift between the two countries over the Kingdom's human rights record.

St. Clair College said it has two students from Saudi Arabia, but they are not government-sponsored. "We can't do it for them; they need to resolve it together", US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told a briefing.

"We're a little bit surprised by this sudden decision", said Associate Vice-President Livia Castellanos with University of Regina's global program.

The Saudi government on Sunday recalled its ambassador to Ottawa, barred Canada's ambassador to Riyadh and placed a ban on new trade, denouncing Canada for urging the release of rights activists.

The move came in reaction to a tweet last week from Ottawa's foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, who said that "Canada is gravely concerned about additional arrests of civil society and women's activists in Saudi Arabia including Samar Badawi". They are republished from a number of sources, and are not produced by MintPress News.

The US official mentioned private discussions that the Washington has held with Saudi Arabia over the matter and on issue of detentions. Saudi Arabia has supported rebels in Syria who are losing a war against President Bashar Assad and its military become bogged down by the bloody and costly war it is waging in neighboring Yemen. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were citizens of Saudi Arabia, and Saudi royals have always been accused of complicity in the attack. "I am not going to characterize this".

Though Canada is an official US ally through North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the USA also has deep financial and diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia.

Among those recently arrested is women's rights activist Samar Badawi, whose brother Raif Badawi was detained back in 2012 and later sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison for his criticism of Islamic clerics.

Trade between Canada and Saudi Arabia exceeded $4-billion (€ 3.4 billion) a year ago, a significant portion of it came from a controversial multibillion-dollar deal to sell combat vehicles equipped with machine guns and cannons to the Saudis, according to The Globe and Mail. "They don't know exactly what's going to happen to them", Castellanos said.

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A representative with Canada's ministry of global affairs did not immediately have a comment.

"@zaidbenjamin said: "The graph raised concerns about an 9/11 reference". Permits for the deal were subsequently approved by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government in 2016.

She noted it's unclear how numerous students are impacted by the Saudi government's decision to axe their scholarships, but there are options available to help them stay.

But Canada isn't the first foreign country to raise the Saudis' ire.

According to Reuters, Saudi-Canadian trade consists largely of Saudi exports of petrochemicals, plastics and other products.

The city's General Dynamics Land Systems plant has been supplying light armoured vehicles to Saudi security forces, thanks to a huge, $15-billion contract signed by the federal government in 2014.

The ministry also announced "the freezing of all new trade and investment transactions with Canada while retaining its right to take further action".

The Kingdom of Bahrain posted a statement on its website affirming its "full solidarity" with Saudi Arabia against "any external interference in its internal affairs or any side's attempt to undermine the Saudi sovereignty".

Pike said many of their Saudi Arabian pupils studied at VIU for several years and were highly regarded. The Saudis, he said, began to feel "ripped off".