MIAMI — Saudi Arabia has halted all diplomatic relations with Canada. The Arab country has expelled the Canadian ambassador from its land and suspended the Saudia Airlines nonstop flights between Jeddah (JED) and Toronto (YYZ) starting from August 13.
The feud originates following Canada’s demands for the release of imprisoned activists for women’s rights, among which Samar Badawi, sister of an incarcerated blogger Raif Badawi, features in the list.
The United Nations Office for Human Rights confirmed that at least 15 women’s rights activists and human right defenders were arrested by the Saudi government on May 15.
Canada is gravely concerned about additional arrests of civil society and women’s rights activists in #SaudiArabia, including Samar Badawi. We urge the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful #humanrights activists.
— Foreign Policy CAN (@CanadaFP) August 3, 2018
The Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister, Chrystia Freeland, said that her country will continue to advocate for human rights, “including women’s rights and freedom of expression around the world.”
However, the Saudi government reacted firmly, asserting that the detained activists were legally prosecuted and that Canada’s observations denoted a “blatant interference in the kingdom’s domestic affairs.”
Saudi has “put on hold all new business and investment transactions with Canada while retaining its right to take further action”, said the Saudi foreign ministry in a public statement.
A verified Saudi Twitter account shared a disturbing image of an Air Canada airplane flying straight into Toronto’s CN Tower, including an Arabic saying that translates, “he who with what doesn’t concern him finds what doesn’t please him”.
More very concerning rhetoric emerging from #SaudiArabia, once again involving aviation.
In Saudi’s latest rift, now with #Canada — an account connected to the Saudi Royal Court has published images with text of an @AirCanada Boeing 767 descending towards CN Tower in Toronto 😳 pic.twitter.com/FKcrikI5QD
— Alex Macheras (@AlexInAir) August 6, 2018
The disturbing Tweet, which brought back September 11 remembrances, was deleted a few hours after it was posted.
Saudia Airlines announced the suspension of its four weekly flights between JED and YYZ, operated with the airline’s newest Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners, which launched on May 3, 2017.
Saudia’s Toronto service had been operating since October 2013, initially serviced by the airline’s Boeing 777-300ERs.
The Arab carrier became the fourth Gulf airline operating flights to Canada after Emirates, Etihad Airways, and Qatar Airways.