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Saudi Arabian Airlines Suspending Flights To and From Canada

10 August 2018

Canada has long pressed Saudi Arabia for the release of jailed blogger Raif Badawi, after granting asylum in 2013 to his wife and their three children.

The official Twitter account of Global Affairs Canada also sent out a tweet, on Friday, Aug. 3: "Canada is gravely concerned about additional arrests of civil society and women's rights activists in #SaudiArabia, including Samar Badawi".

"Throughout its long history, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has never accepted any interference in its domestic affairs by, or orders from any country", the country's foreign ministry wrote on Twitter, accompanied by a freakish and long-winded statement.

Dozens of students will be impacted in Calgary by Saudi Arabia's decision to withdraw its citizens studying under scholarships at Canadian universities.

A State Deparment official earlier in the day told the Agence France-Presse (AFP) that the US has raised the issue with Saudi Arabia.

Experts said the move illustrates how the oil-rich kingdom is increasingly seeking to use its economic and diplomatic muscle to quell foreign criticism under its young de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Despite those ideals, however, the country has continued to take aggressive actions against some neighbours, and concerns about domestic human rights practices persist.

It's not the first time Saudi Arabia has lashed out diplomatically over the Badawi case.

The impact on University of Northern British Columbia will be more cultural than financial if Saudi Arabia makes good on a vow to recall students attending Canadian universities, according to president Daniel Weeks.

"Both Canada and the U.S. lost the Middle East market a long time ago. because they are at a freight disadvantage (with higher ocean shipping costs) to the European Union and Black Sea export markets", the consultant said.

The Saudi Kingdom was less than thrilled about Canada's "interference", saying it had no business to meddle in its local affairs. The state airline operates at least two routes flying from Toronto.

What has the response been so far, at home and overseas?

Bahrain said it supports the measures by Saudi Arabia in response to statements made by Canada's foreign affairs minister.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said Monday the Canadian government will continue to raise its voice and defend human rights.

It went on to "urge the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful human rights activists".

The U.S. also said it continued to encourage the Saudi government to "ensure all are afforded due process".

Kocijancic said the commission wants to understand the allegations against the activists and to ensure they receive a fair trial. "We can't do it for them; they need to resolve it together", US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told a briefing.

Saudi Arabia is its second-largest export market in the Persian Gulf, behind the United Arab Emirates.

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.

Who is Dennis Horak and where is he now? He also spent a three-year stint as director of its Middle East Relations Division from 2012 to 2015.

"Canada stands together with the Badawi family in this hard time, and we continue to strongly call for the release of both Raif and Samar Badawi", Freeland tweeted.

Saudi Arabian Airlines Suspending Flights To and From Canada