In its latest act of diplomatic retaliation against Canada, the Saudi Arabian government canceled scholarships for thousands of Saudi students studying in Canada and ordered them to come home.
The move comes after officials in the Canadian government’s foreign affairs office criticized the Saudis for arresting human rights activists last week, which inspired the Saudis to almost immediately cancel diplomatic ties and holds on new business and investments between the two countries.
The latest retaliatory move could be costly for Canadian universities, which receive hundreds of millions of dollars in tuition fees from the Saudi government for Saudi students studying there, The Globe and Mail reported.
“This is awful for these students, many who are not likely to be in Canada over the summer but now scrambling with what to do with their lives. Unjust!” tweeted Bessma Momani, a professor at the University of Waterloo.
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According to official statistics from the Saudi Gazette, the Saudi government provides scholarships to 8,076 students in Canada. Those students are accompanied by 6,508 dependents.
That number includes more than 800 doctor trainees in teaching hospitals, who not only provide more than $100,000 per year in medical tuition, but provide medical services for Canadians at no cost to taxpayers there.
Also on Tuesday, a Saudi government Twitter account posted a tweet that appeared to threaten Canada with a Sept. 11-style attack by showing a picture of an airplane flying directly into Toronto’s CN Tower.
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“Sticking one’s nose where it doesn’t belong!” the tweet said. “As the Arabic saying goes: ‘He who interferes with what doesn’t concern him, finds what doesn’t please him.'”
The Saudi government later deleted and apologized for the tweet.
Despite the apparent escalation in the diplomatic feud between Saudi Arabia and Canada, the United States has so far decided to stay out of it.
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“Both sides need to diplomatically resolve this together,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters Tuesday. “We can’t do it for them. They need to resolve it together.”