Saudi Arabia to suspend Toronto flights as spat with Canada continues

Saudi Press Agency

The Saudi government also banned new trade with Canada, although it was unclear if it would affect existing annual Saudi-Canadian trade of more than £3bn billion and a £10bn defense contract.

Local media also reported that the country has been instructed not to transfer its patients to Canada for medical treatment.

"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.

"The students have been asked by the kingdom of Saudi Arabia to continue their studies if they are now registered in the spring and summer session, but to deregister or cancel their registration for the fall of 2018 and to leave Canada within four weeks of the departure of the Canadian ambassador to Riyadh", said Livia Castellanos, the university's associate vice-president (international).

Thirty-four Saudi students enrolled for the upcoming academic season starting in September are also expected to be affected. While the United States is Canada's main supplier of crude oil by far, Saudi Arabia comes in second with a lot of its imports to Canada going to New Brunswick, which supplies other eastern provinces.

Alex Wong/Getty ImagesPolitical activist Samar Badawi was presented with an International Women of Courage Award by former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former first lady Michelle Obama in 2012.

The spat began last week with a tweet from Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, criticizing Saudi Arabia's crackdown on dissidents and calling for the release of "peaceful #humanrights activists".

Among the arrested is Samar Badawi, an award-winning women's-rights activist who sought to abolish the country's male guardianship laws.

Saudi Arabia's move came followed a tweet Friday from Global Affairs Canada which expressed concerns about the arrests of civil and women's rights activists and asking the Saudi government to immediately release them.

Within a day, Saudi Arabia expelled the Canadian ambassador, froze all new investment, and canceled all flights to Toronto.

Ottawa has long refused to deepen ties with the Saudi government over the country's track record on human rights. "Saudi Arabia is a strong country and doesn't need Canada, Germany or even America", he told DW.

Amnesty International said the response to Canada showed that it was important Western countries not be intimidated into silence over Riyadh's treatment of dissenters.

"Some of these issues we choose to discuss privately with our friends, with our partners, with our allies", Nauert said.

"This year could have been a year where we could have seen some (Canadian) barley trade there in October-November", said Jerry Klassen, manager at trading house GAP SA Grains and Products in Winnipeg.

The European Commission said it's seeking clarification about the arrest of activists in Saudi Arabia.

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