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Saudi Arabia to suspend Toronto flights as spat with Canada continues

10 August 2018

A tweet from Saudia announced its routes operating between the two countries would cease to function in a matter of days, marking the latest escalation in the spat that erupted over the weekend.

Officials said they would cover cancellation fees, issue refunds and find alternative flights for stranded travellers, according to a story on the CBC National website.

Saudi Arabia's main state wheat buying agency has told grains exporters it will no longer buy Canadian wheat and barley in its global tenders, European traders said on Tuesday, as a diplomatic dispute between the two countries escalates. In 2014, the Canadian unit of U.S. weapons maker General Dynamics Corp won a contract worth up to $13 billion to build light-armoured vehicles for Saudi Arabia, in what Ottawa said was the largest advanced manufacturing export win in Canadian history.

"Any other attempt to interfere with our internal affairs from Canada, means that we are allowed to interfere in Canada's internal affairs, " the Saudi government said.

All scholarships for Saudi students in Canada were also suspended. They said Canada "plans to seek help from the United Arab Emirates and Britain" in easing tensions with Saudi Arabia.

A weekend story by KTW that said TRU could lose one-tenth of its global students due to Saudi Arabia cutting off relationships with Canada and ordering its students to return home was wrong.

Meanwhile, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland on Monday said Canada isn't backing down from its position that leads to the diplomatic dispute.

Inquiries to the European Union's Ottawa offices on Tuesday about whether the 28-member bloc would publicly condemn Saudi Arabia over the arrests - and support Canada in this dispute - were not immediately answered. "We can't do it for them", said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert. "We stand by what we have said", she said Monday.

A number of countries in the region have defended Saudi Arabia.

The move follows Saudi Arabia's freezing of all new investment and trade with Canada, the expulsion of the Canadian ambassador and the recall of the Saudi ambassador.

Some analysts perceive the move as both a power play for the kingdom's emerging young leader and a demonstration put on for the benefit of countries with stronger ties to Saudi Arabia than Canada.

Saudi state media initially claimed the plane tweet was a tribute to the departing ambassador sent by a low level staffer (the Saudi equivalent of the "social media intern" defense).

The kingdom has also expelled Canada's ambassador Dennis Horak, giving him 24 hours to leave the country over the intensifying diplomatic row.

"We are always going to speak up for human rights, we are always going to speak up for women's rights and that is not going to change, " Freeland said in Vancouver.

Thomas Juneau, an assistant professor at the University of Ottawa's Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, said the Saudis appear to be going "full Qatar" on Canada, referring to the punishment Riyadh inflicted on its tiny Arab neighbour after a falling-out.

Saudi Arabia to suspend Toronto flights as spat with Canada continues