Russia is siding with Saudi Arabia in the Kingdom’s dispute with Canada

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Mecca, Saudi Arabia (Glady/Pixabay)

Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs advises Canada to respect cultural diversity dealing with other countries

On August 8, 2018, Russian Foreign Ministry’s Spokesperson Maria Zakharova commented on recent tensions in bilateral relations between Canada and Saudi Arabia.

Maria Zakharova began her comment, which was posted in a form of a response on a media inquiry on the Ministry’s official website, with a Russian stand on compliance with universal human rights. According to the Spokesperson, they should be perceived “with due regard for the specific national customs and traditions that developed in a given country over a long period of time.” In the case of Saudi Arabia, she restated that this country “has the sovereign right to decide how it will proceed in this vital sphere” and suggested “constructive advice and assistance” as an alternative to criticism.

“At the same time, we hope that Saudi Arabia and Canada will find a civilized solution to their differences.”

The diplomatic conflict between Canada and Saudi Arabia broke out on August 2, 2018, after the Canadian Foreign Minister’s tweet on Canada’s concern with an arrest of Samar Badawi, a prominent Saudi women’s rights activist. Chrystia Freeland called for the release of Samar Badawi and her brother Raif Badawi, a Saudi blogger, who had been imprisoned earlier, in 2012, for 10 years for criticizing Islam. After his conviction, his wife, Ensaf Haidar, with their three children moved to Canada and were granted Canadian citizenship on July 1, 2018.

On August 3, 2018, Global Affairs Canada echoed Chrystia Freeland’s tweet by means of the same social media, expressing their concerns about “additional arrests of civil society and women’s rights activists in #SaudiArabia” and urging “the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful #humanrights activists.” This particular tweet was also retweeted by the Canadian Embassy in Saudi Arabia, and the Kingdom, in turn, considered such position to be “a blatant interference” in their internal affairs.

On August 5, 2018, the Saudi Foreign Ministry came up with the statement, rejecting the Canadian political stand regarding this matter and accusing Canada of an attack on Saudi Arabia and “a violation of the Kingdom’s sovereignty.” A recall of the Saudi Ambassador from Canada back to Saudi Arabia for consultations was announced at the same time, and the Canadian Ambassador to the Kingdom, Dennis Horak, was declared “Persona-Non-Grata” and ordered to leave the country within 24 hours. Moreover, it is known that Saudi Arabia is freezing all new trade and investment transactions between the Kingdom and Canada; summoning about 16,000 Saudi-funded students as well as Saudi patients from Canada; suspending Saudi Arabian Airlines flights to Toronto; banning purchases of Canadian-grown barley and wheat; selling government-held Canadian investments; and “looking at implementing additional measures against Canada.”

On August 6, 2018, Chrystia Freeland issued the official statement in response to the expulsion of Canada’s ambassador from Saudi Arabia, restating that “Canada will continue to advocate for human rights and for the brave women and men who push for these fundamental rights around the world.” Thus, the crisis continues to escalate, despite that the Canadian Foreign Minister was reported to be engaged in a long conversation with the Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir on August 7. On August 8, 2018, Adel Al-Jubeir gave a press conference urging Canada “to correct its actions towards the Kingdom.” Soon after the Saudi press conference, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reiterated Chrystia Freeland’s statement that “Canada will always speak strongly and clearly in private and in public on questions of human rights,” elaborating on the issue for the first time since the clash began.

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