Canada standing up for human rights, says Freeland

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Saudi state airline Saudia said it was suspending flights to and from Toronto, Canada's largest city. The Saudi foreign ministry has also launched special operations room to follow up with Saudi students in Canada following measures to transfer them from the country's universities.

Officials said they would cover cancellation fees, issue refunds and find alternative flights for stranded travellers, according to a story on the CBC National website.

The country is embroiled in a diplomatic stand-off with Canada after Global Affairs, Canada's diplomatic arm, called on Saudi Arabia to release detained women's rights activists like Samar Badawi. While total trade between Canada and Saudi Arabia averages around $4 billion annually, the market had been considered relatively stable by Canadian grain exporters, notably those who specialize in barley.

Riyadh responded to Canada's remarks, saying: "The kingdom of Saudi Arabia. will not accept interference in its internal affairs or imposed diktats from any country".

OTTAWA: Canada plans to seek help from the United Arab Emirates and Britain to defuse an escalating dispute with Saudi Arabia, sources said on Tuesday, but close ally the United States made clear it would not get involved. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were citizens of Saudi Arabia, and Saudi royals have always been accused of complicity in the attack.

Not surprisingly, Bahrain and the UAE have joined Saudi Arabia's side of the argument.

Amnesty International noted Ms Badawi has been repeatedly targeted and interrogated by Saudi security forces for her human rights activist.

"Both Canada and the USA lost the Middle East market a long time ago. because they are at a freight disadvantage (with higher ocean shipping costs) to the European Union and Black Sea export markets", the consultant said.

Canada's relationship with Saudi Arabia has been cordial in the past, which has sometimes stoked controversy at home. Samar's brother, Raif Badawi, is a blogger who was arrested in 2012 and sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for criticizing the Saudi clerics, for which he was convicted of "insulting Islam".

Saudi Arabia expelled the Canadian ambassador on Monday and froze "all new business" with Ottawa over its criticism of the ultraconservative kingdom's arrest of women's rights activists - yet another warning to the West reflecting Riyadh's newly assertive foreign policy.

On Tuesday, Saudi's main state wheat agency told traders it had stopped buying Canadian-origin wheat and barley.

A Saudi Arabia threat on Monday to carry out a 9/11-style attack on Canada has provoked a huge backlash. Media reports also suggest Saudi Arabia may cancel thousands of scholarships for students attending school in Canada.

"We will always speak up for human rights, we will always speak up for women's rights around the world", she told reporters in Vancouver. "It absolutely rejects its unacceptable intervention in Saudi internal affairs".

Saudi Arabia gave Canada's ambassador in Riyadh, Dennis Horak, 24 hours on Monday to leave the country, declaring him persona non grata.