Addressing the growing row between the two countries on Wednesday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered no apology, instead reaffirming Ottawa’s stance on human rights in the kingdom.
“Canada will always speak strongly and clearly in private and in public on questions of human rights. We do not wish to have poor relations with Saudi Arabia. Diplomatic talks continue,” he said.
The prime minister further stressed that Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland “had a long conversation” with her Saudi counterpart on Tuesday in an attempt to resolve the current impasse.
His speech came on the heels of statements by Saudi foreign minister Abdel al-Jubeir, who stressed that Canada continued interfering in Riyadh’s internal affairs and ruled out mediation in the dispute, warning of additional punitive measures.
“The matter is not about human rights, it is a matter of national security. Saudi Arabia does not interfere in the affairs of Canada in any way. Therefore, Canada must correct its actions towards the Kingdom. […] There is nothing to mediate. A mistake has been made and a mistake should be corrected,” he said.
Earlier this week, Saudi Arabia accused Canada of “overt and blatant interference” in its internal affairs after the latter called for the “immediate release” of human rights activists detained in the kingdom. In addition, the Foreign Ministry tweeted that another attempt to meddle in Saudi internal affairs would mean that Riyadh is also entitled to interfere in Canada’s affairs.
#Statement | The Canadian position is an overt and blatant interference in the internal affairs of the Kingdom of #SaudiArabia and is in contravention of the most basic international norms and all the charters governing relations between States.— Foreign Ministry 🇸🇦 (@KSAmofaEN) 5 августа 2018 г.
#Statement | KSA through its history has not and will not accept any form of interfering in the internal affairs of the Kingdom. The KSA considers the Canadian position an attack on the KSA and requires a firm stance to deter who attempts to undermine the sovereignty of the KSA.— Foreign Ministry 🇸🇦 (@KSAmofaEN) 5 августа 2018 г.
In response to Ottawa’s statements, Riyadh declared the Canadian ambassador a persona-non-grata, giving him 24 hours to leave the kingdom, and froze fresh trade ties and investment transactions between the two countries. Riyadh has also announced its decision to suspend student exchange programs with Canada and move Saudi students studying in Canada elsewhere.
#Statement | We consider the Canadian ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia persona non grata and order him to leave within the next 24 hours.— Foreign Ministry 🇸🇦 (@KSAmofaEN) 5 августа 2018 г.
Statement | The KSA announces the freezing of all new trade and investment transactions between the KSA and Canada. The KSA reserves its right to take further action.— Foreign Ministry 🇸🇦 (@KSAmofaEN) 5 августа 2018 г.
Reacting to the Saudi actions, Freeland on Monday tweeted a statement to highlight that the Foreign Ministry was “deeply concerned” by the expulsion of the ambassador.
Canada deeply concerned by Saudi Arabia’s expulsion of Canadian ambassador. More information: https://t.co/FCOFR65VbO— Chrystia Freeland (@cafreeland) 6 августа 2018 г.
The Saudi foreign minister also said Monday that Ottawa had "distorted" information, claiming that the rights of those detained had been ensured by Saudi Arabia's legal system.