Saudi rules out mediation in Canada row, mulls new measures


Saudi Arabia has refused to back down from its escalating diplomatic dispute with Canada, saying that Ottawa knows what it needs to do to "fix its big mistake".

This move comes after the Middle Eastern country froze all trade and investments with Canada on Sunday after the Canadian Foreign Ministry expressed concern over the arrests of activists in Saudi Arabia, including Samar Badawi, in a series of tweets.

Thomas Juneau, an assistant professor at the University of Ottawa's Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, estimated the overall trade relationship between Canada and Saudi Arabia totals between $3 and $4 billion a year.

The United Kingdom was similarly muted in its response, with a foreign office spokeswoman saying: "Canada and Saudi Arabia are both close partners of the UK, and we urge restraint during the current situation", a foreign office spokeswoman said.

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Then on Tuesday, Saudi authorities announced they would halt all medical treatment programs in Canada and transfer Saudi patients to hospitals outside the country.

"The matter is not about human rights, it is a matter of national security", Jubeir said, referring to the row with Canada.

But Canada sold 66,000 tonnes of barley to Saudi Arabia in 2016, and twice that past year.

Jubeir added that the kingdom was still "considering additional measures" against Canada.

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Saudi Arabia's Foreign Ministry called the statement "a major, unacceptable affront to the kingdom's laws and judicial process".

A source at a Saudi bank told Reuters the bank was contacted by the central bank on Wednesday afternoon asking for information about all their Canadian exposure - investments in Canada and foreign exchange positions.

The United States said Tuesday that both Canada and Saudi Arabia are "close partners" of the US, and asked the Saudi government for more information of the detention of several activists.

Saudi Arabia's state airline said it would suspend flights to and from Canada, starting next week.

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Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to hold a news conference in Montreal, where he will be pressed on the diplomatic crisis.