Saudi Arabia stops all medical treatment programmes in Canada

Irving Hamilton
August 9, 2018

Russian Federation voiced support for Saudi Arabia in its worsening row with Canada, telling Ottawa it was unacceptable to lecture the kingdom on human rights.

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said in a tweet on Monday that he stands with Saudi Arabia in "defending its sovereignty and laws".

Ahmed Samir Islam, secretary-general of the Canadian Saudi Business Council, said representatives of Aramco Services Company - the USA -based subsidiary of Saudi Aramco - made a formal visit to Calgary in April to make connections with Alberta-based oilfield service providers.

On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia's main wheat buyer, Saudi Grains Organization (SAGO) said in an email sent to Canadian shippers it had halted all purchases of Canadian milling wheat and feed barley.

A representative with Canada's ministry of global affairs did not immediately have a comment.

Lashing out at Canada, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir on Monday said the kingdom "will deal with any interference decisively".

Castellanos added the decision by Saudi Arabia is also a hit to the university's diversity, calling the Saudi students very important cohorts of the U of R.

Since then, the Saudis have reportedly stopped accepting grain that originated in Canada and Saudi air flights have been cancelled to and from Toronto.

The agency cited Saudi Health Attaché in the United States of America and Canada Dr Fahd Ibrahim Al Tamimi.

"Both sides need to diplomatically solve this together. We can't just beg for jobs at any price, but our members feel like they are being used as pawns right now", he said.

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While the university hasn't received an official notification from Saudi Arabia, Castellanos has learned from some students they have been asked to leave Canada within one month. "We urge the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful human rights activists".

Chrystia Freeland
Chrystia Freeland said Canada was"seriously concerned about Saudi Arabia's actions

In addition to expelling the Canadian ambassador and announcing the suspension of all Saudi flights to Toronto starting August 13, the Saudi government has also announced it will move thousands of Saudi scholarship students out of Canadian schools.

The Saudis have also threatened to exclude Canadian companies from participation in the lucrative Vision 2030 programme, where the kingdom is spending hundreds of billions of dollars to modernise its economy.

In 2015, the latest year for which Alberta government figures are available, the province exported $46 million of agricultural products to Saudi Arabia, primarily cereal crops.

"Saudi Arabia simply can not afford to alienate any other sections of the global community in the midst of its unpopular military engagement in Yemen, its indirect confrontation with Iran", commentator Jamal Khashoggi wrote in the Washington Post.

A number of countries in the region have defended Saudi Arabia.

Canada has indicated it will not back down, despite the risk of imperiling business deals including a significant $15 billion agreement to sell Riyadh light armored vehicles.

One well placed source said the Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau - which stresses the importance of human rights - planned to reach out to the United Arab Emirates.

Another source said Canada will be turning to its old ally the United Kingdom for help, which has appealed for calm. The British government on Tuesday urged the two nations to show restraint.

The first Canadian source said Ottawa shared the view of foreign policy experts who believe the Saudi reaction reflected internal strains inside the kingdom, where 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is trying to push through domestic reforms.

Samar Badawi 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 women activists.

Among the arrested activists is Samar Badawi, whose writer brother Raif Badawi was arrested in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and later sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison for insulting Islam while blogging.

"If Saudi Arabia really wishes to pursue this, Canada can do two things". But 359 of those physicians were Canadian citizens or permanent residents, meaning they were likely returning home to Canada after studying medicine in Ireland.

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