Saudi Arabia has suspended new trade and investment transactions with Canada and declared the ambassador of Canada persona non grata, ordering him to leave in 24 hours.
The kingdom is also recalling its ambassador to Ottawa “while retaining its right to take further action,” a Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement published by the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said.
The ministry said it has told the Canadian foreign minister and the embassy in Riyadh of its objection to their interference in the case of “civil society activists” who were arrested in the kingdom.
The statement said: “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been made aware of the statement by the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Canadian Embassy in the kingdom, on the so-called civil society activists who have been detained, urging Saudi authorities to release them immediately.
“The Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs has expressed disbelief by this negative unfounded comment, which was not based in any accurate or true information. The persons referred to were lawfully detained by the Public Prosecution for committing crimes punishable by applicable law, which also guaranteed the detainees’ rights and provided them with due process during the investigation and trial.”
The ministry said the Canadian statement is a blatant interference in the kingdom’s domestic affairs, against basic international norms and all international protocols. It is a major, unacceptable affront to the kingdom’s laws and judicial process, as well as a violation of the kingdom’s sovereignty, it said.
It said Saudi Arabia has never accepted any interference in its domestic affairs by, or orders from any country. The kingdom views the Canadian position as an affront to the kingdom that requires a sharp response to prevent any party from attempting to meddle with Saudi sovereignty. It is quite unfortunate to see the phrase “immediate release” in the Canadian statement, which is a reprehensible and unacceptable use of language between sovereign states, it continued.
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – whilst expressing absolute rejection to the Canadian political stand regarding this matter – confirms its commitment to refrain from intervening in the internal matters of other countries, including Canada, and in return categorically rejects any intervention in its domestic affairs and internal relations with its citizens. Any further step from the Canadian side in that direction will be considered as an acknowledgement of our right to interfere in the Canadian domestic affairs,” it warned.
“Canada and all other nations need to know that they can’t claim to be more concerned than the kingdom over its own citizens. Thereby, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia recalls the Ambassador of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques in Canada back to Riyadh for consultation and considers the Canadian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia as persona-non-grata who must leave the kingdom within the next 24 hours,” the statement said.
The kingdom will put on hold all new business and investment transactions with Canada while retaining its right to take further action, it added.