AUG 9, 2018: 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 via a two-sentence tweet last week from Canadian to Saudi officials demanding the release of imprisoned women’s rights activists.
The Kingdom 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 16,000 Saudi students in Canadian schools and colleges to leave the country.
It has 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.
“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.
“Both sides need to diplomatically resolve this together. We can’t do it for them,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said. Nauert said Tuesday that the U.S. raises such issues privately.
According to former Canadian ambassador to Saudi Arabia David Chatterson, Trudeau’s government seems to have made a tactical error in trying to address human rights in Saudi Arabia.
By tweeting for everyone to see, rather than conducting traditional closed-door diplomacy, Canada has been hurt by Saudi Arabia’s retaliation with nothing to show for it, he said.
The former ambassador asked how this tweet helped anyone in Saudi Arabia or in Canada — and found that it most likely did not.