Saudi Arabia renews rejection of interference in internal affairs

Howard TerryAug 10, 2018

He said 80 of the Saudi Arabian students enrolled for their fall semester are sponsored by their government, but said some of their 13 non-sponsored students have also been told to leave Canada.

The Islamic Kingdom made the decision in retaliation to a Global Affairs Canada's tweet that expressed concerns about the arrests of civil society and women's rights activists in the country, including Samar Badawi - the sister of jailed blogger Raif Badawi, who's wife and three children recently became Canadian citizens.

"I will say Canada is very comfortable with our position".

Harbash added that they are capable of transferring all Saudi students from Canada to countries with cultural missions in the US, UK, New Zealand and Australia, all of which are considered countries with top education institutions, and have good relations with Saudi Arabia. "You have to have a policy, as we do at UNBC, where yes, we want worldwide students but we're never going to put our budget in jeopardy at all - the students are here to enrich their lives and help us enrich our lives". "This is something where we know we need to lead with our values".

Ultimately, both universities stressed there were too few details to determine exactly what course of action could be taken next.

The United States "raised" the case with Riyadh, she said, adding: "The United States has respect for internationally recognized freedoms and also individual liberties". "But we would encourage both governments to work out their issues together".

Saudi Arabia's diplomatic spat with Canada prompted a tweet that touched a raw nerve in the kingdom: a photomontage of an Air Canada plane heading toward the iconic CN Tower in Toronto.

Among those detained by Riyadh is Loujain al-Hathloul, 28, who appeared with the Duchess of Sussex, then Meghan Markle, at a One Young World summit in Canada two years ago where they were pictured in a Vanity Fair photoshoot.

Canada and Saudi Arabia began sparring last week when a Canadian official spoke out against the recent arrest of a Saudi human rights activist. "We urge the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful #humanrights activists". Saudi Arabia said it would recall its ambassador to Canada as well.

While department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said USA officials have raised human rights concerns with the Saudis in the past, she stressed that Riyadh and Ottawa "need to diplomatically resolve this together".

Independent U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders called Saudi Arabia's decision an "outrageous move" on Twitter, saying, "The U.S. must be clear in condemning repression, especially when done by governments that receive our support".

Samar's brother, blogger Raif Badawi, was arrested in 2012 and sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail for "insulting Islam" in a case that sparked an global outcry.

According to State, the USA has asked Saudi Arabia for more information about the detentions, and to publicize details about the status of legal cases.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert avoided taking a side in the dispute.

The European Commission said it's seeking clarification about the arrest of activists in Saudi Arabia.

The dispute looks set to damage what is a modest bilateral trade relationship worth almost $4bn a year.

York University, meanwhile, said 115 Saudi students are now enrolled at the Toronto university and that it is also awaiting further information.

The college said it hasn't received any official word yet that Saudi students won't be attending.

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.

"We're waiting for answers on how Saudi Arabia intends to go forward with the relationship", she said.

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