on Wednesday 24 May, 2023

Saudi Arabia, Canada agree to restore full diplomatic ties

by : (Reuters, AFP)

Saudi Arabia and Canada announced on Wednesday the restoration of diplomatic relations "on the basis of mutual respect and common interests," following a five-year rift over Riyadh's jailing of activists.

The decision to restore ties followed discussions between Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman last November, on the sidelines of the summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum in Bangkok, according to a statement.

Saudi Arabia announced severing diplomatic ties with Canada in August 2018, after Ottawa called on the kingdom to release arrested civil rights activists.
What did the two sides agree on?

Both countries' foreign ministries released almost identical statements, announcing they were restoring diplomatic relations to the "previous level."

Canada added that it appointed Jean-Philippe Linteau as its ambassador to Riyadh.

A Canadian government source familiar with the agreement told the Reuters news agency that punitive trade measures would be lifted as a consequence of the agreement.

"Empty chairs at the end of the day don't push our interests forward, and they don't push things like human rights forward," the source added.

The source also referred to Saudi Arabia as an "important global player" in recent years. They referred to the kingdom's role in evacuating Canadian nationals from Sudan last month, as countries struggled to get their citizens out of the war torn country.

The source also cited Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly as saying: "We need to have conversations with people we don't always agree with on everything in order to find global solutions to global problems," Reuters reported.

What prompted the rift?

In August 2018, Saudi Arabia took offense at a Canadian Foreign Ministry and embassy tweet urging for the release of women's rights activists. It expelled the Canadian ambassador and froze new trade.

The kingdom, which only allowed women to drive in the same year, described the Canadian statement at the time as "blatant interference" in its internal affairs.

Later the same year, Saudi Arabia became the center of Western condemnation after the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate in Turkey.

Five of the alleged killers were convicted in 2020, but the Saudi crown prince has also been accused of involvement, which he consistently denies.