Riyadh:Saudi Arabia said today it was expelling the Canadian ambassador and had recalled its envoy while freezing all new trade, in protest at Ottawa’s vigorous calls for the release of jailed activists.
The kingdom gave the Canadian ambassador 24 hours to leave the country, in an abrupt rupture of relations over what it slammed as “interference” in its internal affairs.
The move, which underscores a newly aggressive foreign policy led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, comes after Canada demanded the immediate release of human rights campaigners swept up in a new crackdown.
“The Canadian position is an overt and blatant interference in the internal affairs of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the Saudi foreign ministry tweeted.
“The kingdom announces that it is recalling its ambassador to Canada for consultation. We consider the Canadian ambassador to the kingdom persona non grata and order him to leave within the next 24 hours.” The ministry also announced “the freezing of all new trade and investment transactions with Canada while retaining its right to take further action”.
Canada last week said it was “gravely concerned” over a new wave of arrests of women and human rights campaigners in the kingdom, including award-winning gender rights activist Samar Badawi.
“We urge the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful #humanrights activists,” the foreign ministry tweeted on Friday.
Samar was arrested along with fellow campaigner Nassima al-Sadah last week, the latest victims of what Human Rights Watch called an “unprecedented government crackdown on the women’s rights movement”.