Saudi Arabia Demands Canadian Apology to Resolve Diplomatic Spat

(Bloomberg) -- Saudi Arabia demanded an apology from Canada in order to end a diplomatic dispute that’s damaged business ties between the two countries, accusing the Canadian government of treating it like a “banana republic.”

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said his country refuses to be lectured to over human rights, denouncing as “outrageous” a tweet last month by Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland urging the release of two imprisoned activists.

“What are we? A banana republic? Would any country accept this?” al-Jubeir said Wednesday at an event at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. “You owe us an apology. It is very easy to fix -- apologize, say you made a mistake.”

The tough Saudi stance, a day after Freeland said she hoped to meet al-Jubeir during the United Nations General Assembly in a bid to resolve the stand-off, seemed to set back prospects of an immediate solution. In a backlash over Canada’s human rights policy, the Saudis ordered a freeze on new contracts being awarded to Canadian firms and suspended flights by their state airline to Toronto.

The Saudi move was prompted by a tweet from Freeland criticizing the arrest of women’s rights activist Samar Badawi. Her brother, blogger Raif Badawi, was already in jail in the Kingdom and is married to a Canadian citizen. The Canadian foreign minister also said her country continued to “strongly call” for the release of both activists.

The spat, unusual for two Group of 20 nations, has pitted Canada’s liberal, feminist foreign policy against an increasingly assertive Saudi Arabia on the international stage under the 33-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Saudi Arabia and Germany on Tuesday agreed to end a dispute that lasted almost a year sparked by German accusations of undue Saudi influence over Lebanon, after the German Foreign Ministry said it regretted the misunderstanding.

Freeland on Tuesday defended her approach, saying Canada felt a “particular obligation” to women fighting for their rights around the world.

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