Saudi Arabia wants Canada to apologise to it for calling for the release of human rights activists and wants Canada to stop treating the kingdom as "a banana republic."
These statements were made by Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City on the sidelines of the ongoing United Nations General Assembly.
His statements were harsh and accused Canada of using Saudi Arabia as a tool in its domestic politics. Al-Jubeir said, “We don't want to be a political football in Canada's domestic politics. Find another ball to play with."
Saudi Arabia-Canada relations took a nosedive in August this year when Canada’s foreign minister called for the release of activists detained for urging more rights for women in the kingdom. Since then Riyadh has frozen trade with Canada, stopped direct flights, blocked grain imports, expelled Canada's ambassador, and ordered all Saudi students in Canada home.
The Saudi foreign minister called Canada's criticism of the activists' arrests "outrageous". "We demand the immediate release and independence of Quebec, granting of equal rights to Canadian Indians... You can sit down and talk about it, but demand the immediate release [of the Saudis]? What are we, a banana republic? Would any country accept it? No! We don't."
Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland was expected to meet Al-Jubeir on the sidelines of the UNGA to discuss the freeze in bilateral ties but the meeting is yet to happen.
The initial acrimony began when Canada criticised the arrests of human rights activists in Saudi Arabia, including prominent women’s rights campaigner Samar Badawi. Her brother Raif Badawi, a prominent blogger, is serving a 10-year sentence in the Kingdom and has been publicly flogged for expressing dissenting opinions online. His wife and children live in Canada and are Canadian citizens.