Saudi Arabia has started selling off Canadian assets and removing Saudi patients from Canada hospitals, as the countries’ diplomatic dispute escalated Wednesday.
The fallout is from a call last week from Canadian to Saudi officials demanding the release of imprisoned women’s rights activists Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sadah. Badawi is the sister of Raif Badawi, a prominent human rights campaigner who was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2014 on charges of insulting Islam. His wife and children are naturalized Canadian citizens. Samar Badawi and Sadah were arrested last week in what global human rights groups called a crackdown on dissent in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia has cut diplomatic ties with Canada, expelled the Canadian ambassador, frozen trade and investment between Riyadh and Ottawa and halted flights to and from Canada.
Riyadh has also frozen student exchange programs and ordered about 15,000 Saudi students in Canadian schools and colleges to leave the country.
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It’s also stopped medical treatment programs in which Saudi patients are sent to hospitals in Canada. Riyadh added it’s working to transfer existing Saudi patients out of the country.
Earlier this week, the Saudi central bank and state pension funds instructed third-party asset managers to divest assets in Canadian bonds, stocks and cash. The selloff began on Tuesday, the Financial Times reported, and involved about $100 billion in Saudi funds.
Adel al-Jubeir, Saudi foreign minister, said on Wednesday that there would be no new Saudi investment in Canada until the crisis was resolved.
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“Canada made a mistake and they know what they need to do to correct it,” Mr Jubeir said.
“Canada will always stand up for human rights in Canada and around the world, and women’s rights are human rights,” said Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland on Monday.
Canada and Saudi Arabia are both allies and partners of the United States.
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“Both sides need to diplomatically resolve this together. We can’t do it for them,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.