Saudi airline stops flights to Canada amid escalating diplomatic row

Saudi Arabia Expels Canadian Ambassador, To Withdraw Students From Canada Over Women's Rights Criticism

Saudi Arabia says it will withdraw all of its students studying in Canada in an intensifying rift between the two countries over the kingdom's human-rights record. The Saudi government funds the tuition of many of those students. While he has sought to introduce social and economic change to the ultraconservative kingdom, he has not eased the absolute monarchy's total ban on political activism.

It estimates that at least 15 Saudi activists have been arrested since May 15, though some estimate the actual number of unreported arrests may be higher.

"For Saudi Arabia to punish Canada, it's fairly easy because we're not an important country for them, either are they for us", he said, adding that it does send a message to others that it will not accept criticism.

According to State, the US has asked Saudi Arabia for more information about the detentions, and to publicize details about the status of legal cases.

But Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir tweeted that Canada's position was based on "misleading information", adding that anyone arrested was "subject to Saudi laws that guarantee their rights".

Meanwhile, Egypt joined a host of Riyadh's allies on Tuesday in expressing "solidarity" with Saudi Arabia.

The sudden deterioration in the Saudi-Canadian relationship is likely grabbing the attention of people in the city of London, Ont., more than anywhere else in the country.

State-run television has reported that Riyadh will stop training, scholarship and fellowship programs in Canada - a move that will apparently affect the scholarships of more than 15,000 students attending university in Canada.

One well placed source said the Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau - which stresses the importance of human rights - planned to reach out to the United Arab Emirates. Now, Saudi Arabia's state airline has announced the suspension of its direct flights to Canada, starting August 13.

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A Financial Times reporter, Ahmed Al Omran, citing Saudi state TV, tweeted that students would be transferred to schools in the U.S., the UK, Australia, and New Zealand.

Crown Prince Mohammed, as heir to the throne, is in line to become the first Saudi king from a new generation after a succession of six brothers dating to 1953.

Saudi authorities accused Ottawa of interfering with its internal affairs.

There's a lot of uncertainty for Saudi Arabian students after their country chose to suspend government scholarships for studying in Canada.

Saudi Arabia's trade freeze now throws that deal into doubt.

The Saudi-Canadian trade consists largely of Saudi exports of petrochemicals, plastics and other products.

In response, the Saudi government has expelled Canada's ambassador from the country and frozen all new trade with Canada.

Dan McTeague, a senior analyst at the fuel price tracking website GasBuddy, said any such disruption could easily be offset by alternative supply, as Saudi Arabia's oil continues to represent an increasingly small portion of Canada's crude imports.

Top Photo | The Maple Leaf flag is seen in a display case in the Hall of Honour on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015.

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