Thu 25 May 2023 3:08 pm - Jerusalem Time
Saudi Arabia and Canada turn the page on the dispute and restore diplomatic relations
Saudi Arabia and Canada announced an agreement to restore their diplomatic relations to their previous state and turn the page on a dispute that erupted in 2018 and included the expulsion of representatives and the cessation of commercial dealings, after Ottawa condemned Riyadh on the grounds of its human rights record.
The Kingdom's Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that the agreement is mainly due to discussions held by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum summit in Bangkok in November 2022.
In a statement, it said, "It is the desire of both sides to restore diplomatic relations between the two countries on the basis of mutual respect and common interests. It was decided to restore the level of diplomatic relations with Canada to its previous status."
The Canadian Foreign Ministry confirmed the agreement to return relations to their previous state.
Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Jolie announced that each of the two countries will appoint an ambassador to the other. Ottawa appointed Jean-Philippe Lanto as its envoy to Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia did not specify who it chose to represent it.
And Riyadh announced in August 2018 that it had asked the Canadian ambassador there to leave, recalled its ambassador in Ottawa, and frozen commercial dealings with Canada, due to what it considered "interference" by the latter in its internal affairs.
This step came after Ottawa's strong demand for Riyadh's immediate release of civil society activists who were arrested by the Saudi authorities as part of a wave of arrests at the time.
On that day, Saudi Arabia confirmed its rejection of dictations and any interference in its internal affairs.
For its part, Canada expressed at the time its "serious concern" about the move, but stressed that it would "always defend the protection of human rights, especially women's rights, and freedom of expression in all parts of the world."
She added that the Trudeau government will not hesitate "to promote these values and we believe that this dialogue is essential to international diplomacy."
The move to expel the ambassador entailed measures such as stopping Saudi Arabia's scholarship programs for its students to Canada, while Arab countries took positions supporting the Kingdom in the crisis.
The restoration of relations came in the context of a series of diplomatic moves by Riyadh recently, which analysts believe reflect the aspirations of Saudi Arabia, especially the de facto ruler of the Kingdom, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to enhance its presence on the world stage.
One of the most prominent of these moves in the past months was the signing of an agreement sponsored by China to resume relations with the most prominent regional opponent, Iran, after years of estrangement.
Likewise, Riyadh restored its diplomatic relations with Damascus after it was severed following the outbreak of the conflict in Syria in 2011, and it received President Bashar al-Assad to attend the Arab summit that it hosted in Jeddah last week.
The same summit witnessed the sudden participation of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, whose country has been facing since the beginning of last year a large-scale Russian invasion.
Riyadh has also opened channels of communication with the Houthi rebels, seeking to end the war it is leading against them in Yemen.
Saudi Arabia hosts representatives of the two sides of the Sudanese conflict, and announced, in cooperation with the United States, their agreement on a seven-day armistice, which officially began on Monday night.
Analysts believe that Riyadh's agenda at present is clear, and is based on reducing unrest abroad and embarking on economic and social reforms at home, especially "Vision 2030", which mainly aims to diversify sources of income and reduce dependence on oil revenues.
Despite a series of broad reforms led by Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Kingdom's record in the field of human rights continues to attract international criticism and from human rights organizations.
The kingdom has long been criticized for its high execution rate. The Saudi authorities say that the defendants have exhausted all levels of litigation, stressing that "the Kingdom's government is keen to establish security, achieve justice, and implement God's rulings against all those who transgress against the safe."
In 2022, the authorities executed 147 people, more than double the number of executions in 2021, which amounted to 69 executions, according to a toll prepared by AFP.