Canada still seeking clarity from Saudi Arabia on diplomatic dispute

A federal official says Canada remains unclear about the measures Saudi Arabia is taking in response to Canadian criticism of its human rights policies.

The official says Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland spoke with her Saudi counterpart Tuesday in part to get clarity about the measures, including one report that said Saudi banks and pension funds had been ordered to sell off their Canadian assets.

Saudi Arabia has not confirmed that report, and the official — who spoke on condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of the matter — says a full understanding of their plans remains elusive.

The official says Freeland made clear to Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir that Canada’s foreign policy is to express its position publicly, not just behind closed doors.

Freeland has also discussed the situation with counterparts in Sweden and Germany, but hasn’t yet connected with anyone in the U.S. or the U.K., which have so far not expressed public support for Canada’s position.

On Sunday, Saudi Arabia suspended diplomatic ties with Canada and expelled the Canadian ambassador after Freeland and her department issued tweets criticizing the arrest of social activists and asking for their immediate release.

Related: Freeland says waiting on Saudi Arabia’s next moves amid diplomatic spat

Related: B.C. officials seek clarity after Saudi Arabia to reportedly remove students

The Canadian Press

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Carmen Weld

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