Saudi airline stops flights to Canada amid escalating diplomatic row

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The moves were a stern rebuke to Canada after the country on Friday expressed concern over the arrests of activists in Saudi Arabia, including prominent women's rights campaigner Samar Badawi, and called for their release.

"Canada is gravely concerned about additional arrests of civil society and women's rights activists in Saudi Arabia, including Samar Badawi", the tweet said.

The displaced Canadian ambassador to Saudi Arabia, who was given 24 hours to leave the country, has a lengthy diplomatic career.

The first source said Canada 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.

Human rights groups and Canadian and other Western diplomats have made repeated calls for the release of Raif Badawi, whose wife received Canadian citizenship in July.

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.

Canada's economic relationship with Saudi Arabia is not particularly significant to Riyadh, unlike the USA or other Western partner governments, which experts say makes Ottawa an easier target.

Thomas Juneau, an assistant professor at the University of Ottawa, said it is hard to determine what the economic impact on Canada would be without specifics on which trade deals will be affected.

The diplomatic row erupted after Canada tweeted about a recent arrest in Saudi Arabia.

University Canada is working with Ottawa to do a deeper analysis on the statement from the Saudi Arabia government, and the provincial Department of Labour and Advanced Education is also looking into the matter.

She was arrested last week after years of punishment by Saudi authorities, including a 2014 travel ban and a 2016 arrest.

But is worldwide criticism enough to improve human rights in the kingdom?

"Any other attempt to interfere with our internal affairs from Canada, means that we are allowed to interfere in Canada's internal affairs, " the Saudi government said.

European traders said on Tuesday that Saudi Arabia's main wheat-buying agency has told grains exporters it will no longer accept Canadian-origin wheat and barley. At jeopardy are the. thousands of Saudi students in Canada'.

A handful of Canadian companies operate in Saudi Arabia and could potentially be affected by the ongoing trade battle.

When asked about the contract, Freeland said the government "looks forward" to hearing from Riyadh about the future of the deal.

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