From 13 August, all Saudia flights between Canada and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) have been suspended after a diplomatic row between Canada and Saudi Arabia. On 3 August, Canada raised their concern about additional arrests of civil society and women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia, including Samar Badawi. In an official statement Canada urged the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful human rights activists.
On 6 August, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia responded
“The negative and surprising attitude of Canada is an entirely false claim and utterly incorrect. We have been briefed by what the Canadian foreign minister and the Canadian embassy to the KSA released on what they named “civil society rights activists”, and we affirm that this negative and surprising attitude is an incorrect claim.”
“The Canadian position is an overt and blatant interference in the internal affairs of the KSA and is in contravention of the most basic international norms and all the charters governing relations between States. The Canadian position is a grave and unacceptable violation of the Kingdom’s laws and procedures. In addition to violate the Kingdom’s judiciary and a breach of the principle of sovereignty.”
“KSA through its history has not and will not accept any form of interfering in the internal affairs of the Kingdom. The KSA considers the Canadian position an attack on the KSA and requires a firm stance to deter who attempts to undermine the sovereignty of the KSA. Using the phrase (immediately release) in the Canadian statement is very unfortunate, reprehensible, and unacceptable in relations between States.”
Saudi Arabia’s state media tweeted a graphic appearing to show an Air Canada airliner heading toward the Toronto skyline in a way that recalled the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers in the September 11 attacks were Saudi citizens. Shortly after that tweet, and the rest of the account disappeared from Twitter. The picture appeared again on Instagram, yet without the Air Canada aircraft on it.
Canadian ambassador forced to leave Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabian ambassador in Canada called back
“Any other attempt to interfere with our internal affairs from Canada means that we are allowed to interfere in Canada’s internal affairs. The KSA announces the summoning of the ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to Canada. We consider the Canadian ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia persona non grata and order him to leave within the next 24 hours.”
Sanctions against Canada
“The KSA announces the freezing of all new trade and investment transactions between the KSA and Canada. The KSA reserves its right to take further action.”
Shortly after the statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the KSA, Saudia, the national carrier of the country decided to suspend flights between Riyadh and Toronto from 13 August onward, Toronto-Riyadh is Saudia’s only flight between the two countries.