Saudi Arabia expels Canadian ambassador, freezes business

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia expelled Canada's ambassador over alleged interference in the kingdom's domestic affairs after Ottawa's foreign ministry rebuked Riyadh for jailing human rights activists.

Saudi Arabia is also halting all new investment and trade transactions with Canada, the Saudi Press Agency statement added.

Last week, the Canadian Department of Global Affairs pressed for Saudi authorities to "immediately release" the two activists, with Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland saying she was "very alarmed" by their detention in a post on Twitter.

Those rounded up in recent days include Samar Badawi, who is known for having challenged the kingdom's male guardianship rules and is the sister of one of Saudi Arabia's most prominent detainees, liberal blogger Raif Badawi.

"It is very unfortunate that the words "immediate release" appeared in the Canadian statement.it is unacceptable in relations between countries", tweeted the Saudi foreign ministry in response.

The Canadian diplomats had issued remarks of concern following the arrests of a number of women's rights activists, including most recently Samar Badawi, a Canadian citizen whose brother, Raif Badawi, had already been jailed in the country. "Any further step from the Canadian side in that direction [of alleged interference in domestic affairs] will be considered as acknowledgement of our right to interfere in the Canadian domestic affairs", the ministry warned.

Nearly immediately after the news, Saudi Twitter accounts began tweeting similarly phrased messages of their "concern" for Canada's own treatment of First Nation members and the need for Quebec to gain independence.

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Canada is gravely concerned about additional arrests of civil society and women's rights activists in #SaudiArabia, including Samar Badawi.

Riyadh's expulsion of the Canadian ambassador was meant to send a strong message to other critical Western governments, observers say.

'Canada is easier to cut ties with than the rest, ' Bessma Momani, a professor at Canada's University of Waterloo, told AFP.

Canada's government has so far made no public comments on Saudi Arabia's diplomatic measures.

'There isn't a strong bilateral trade relationship and poking the Trudeau government likely resonates with Saudi's hawkish regional allies.

It isn't immediately clear what new business could be affected between the two countries.

Tanks, armored vehicles and parts and motor vehicles accounted for about 45 percent of Canada's 2016 exports to the kingdom, while crude oil and copper ores comprised about 98 percent of imports, according to a government report.

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