Canada and Saudi Arabia normalize diplomatic relations after 2018 split
- In Reports
- 11:34 AM, May 25, 2023
- Myind Staff
Saudi Arabia and Canada have both announced that they will resume diplomatic relations, ending a bitter 2018 dispute over human rights.
The decision came after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum in Bangkok last November, according to a statement Wednesday from Canada and Saudi Arabia.
Each side will also appoint a new ambassador. Saudi Arabia has yet to announce its selection, while Canada named Jean-Philippe Linteau, a long-time member of its Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
The statements stated that the decision was made out of "the desire for both sides to restore diplomatic relations between the two countries on the basis of mutual respect and common interests."
Canada’s relations with Saudi Arabia nosedived in 2018 after officials in Ottawa accused the kingdom of human rights violations and demanded the release of imprisoned activists. They included Samar Badawi, whose brother, the dissident Raif Badawi, was also imprisoned at the time. His wife and children had fled to Canada, where they were granted citizenship.
In retaliation, Saudi Arabia froze new trade and investment agreements, suspended flights to Canada, relocated students there, and expelled Canada's ambassador to the country while recalling its own. Some observers at the time thought the response was an excessively disproportionate response to a reasonably common critique of the nation's human rights record.
According to official figures, Canada's exports to the region were C$2.2 billion ($1.65 billion) in 2021, making Saudi Arabia the country's largest export market in the area. $2.4 billion was spent on imports. The majority of Canada's imports were petrochemicals and crude oil. Equipment for transportation made up more than 80% of exports to Saudi Arabia.
Recently, Saudi Arabia has placed a high priority on domestic economic growth, which depends on regional stability. The $1 trillion economy has been working to change its reputation as a conservative, aggressive oil producer and become a major regional tourism and commercial destination as well as a worldwide economic participant.
In March, the kingdom re-established diplomatic relations with Iran in a deal brokered by China, and this month, it resumed ties with Syria. It also hosted Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for Friday’s Arab League summit.
Saudi Arabia has also worked to broker peace in Sudan, hosting talks between representatives for the country’s two warring generals. The United States has also been party to those negotiations, and White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan has also met Saudi officials to discuss peace in Yemen.
Image source: Reuters