Saudi Arabia orders all of its foreign university students to leave Canada

Arturo Kim
August 7, 2018

Analysts say the dispute between Riyadh and Ottawa shows Saudi Arabia won't accept any outside criticism and will continue flexing its muscles overseas, especially as the kingdom enjoys a closer relationship with President Donald Trump.

"We are always going to speak up for human rights, we are always going to speak up for women's rights and that is not going to change", Freeland said.

"Canadians expect our foreign policy to be driven by and to embody Canadian values, and that is how we intend to continue our foreign policy".

But the move could jeopardise a controversial C$15b ($11.5b, £9b) arms deal between the two countries.

Saudia issued a tweet early Tuesday saying flights to and from Canada would be suspended starting August 13.

Transport Canada did not immediately respond to request for comment on the decision.

Canada, an oil producer in its own right, brings in barrels from overseas to satisfy the needs of certain regional energy markets.

Late last week, Canadian officials began publicly pressing the Kingdom to release women's rights activists from around Saudi Arabia, who've been swept up and jailed as Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince, consolidates his power and cracks down on dissenters. Saudi Arabia has said the arrests targeted people who sought to "destabilize the Kingdom" and were done by following the country's legal guidelines.

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Tension began to build on Thursday after Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland tweeted she was alarmed to learn that Samar Badawi, Raif Badawi's sister, has been imprisoned in Saudi Arabia.

Mr Alzayani criticised Canada's statements and unsubstantiated allegations that he said violate the global diplomatic norms and represent a flagrant and unacceptable interference in the internal affairs and encroach on the United Nations charter, the Bahrain News Agency reported. Matt Pascuzzo said the Canadian government is in constant contact with Saudi Arabia and still waiting to get all the facts from the Saudis.

In response, Canada's foreign affairs minister Chrystia Freeland said the government will not back down.

'There isn't a strong bilateral trade relationship and poking the Trudeau government likely resonates with Saudi's hawkish regional allies. "And by hitting Canada - which is big enough to matter but small enough not to be a risk to Saudi - he sends a message elsewhere", Kliment said.

The true impact of Saudi Arabia's flexing of diplomatic muscle is still unclear.

"For Saudi Arabia to punish Canada, it's fairly easy because we're not an important country for them, either are they for us", he said.

Counting several Saudi diplomatic figures among its more than 350,000 followers, the now-deleted account is run by volunteers and managed by Saudi youth with an interest in technology and social media, according to an affiliated website.

A Twitter account linked to the Saudi government posted an image showing a plane flying towards the skyline in Toronto.

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