Saudi-Canada row leaves U.S. in tight diplomatic spot

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Hitting back over Riyadh's response to Canada's call to have arrested activists freed, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said: "Canada will always stand up for human rights in Canada and around the world, and women's rights are human rights".

If the Saudi government's threat includes oil market transactions with private-sector companies in Canada, the effects would be damaging for the country's refining sector, ARC Energy Research Institute executive director Peter Tertzakian said.

"We greatly value our contributions to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia over the past five decades".

The war of words between the two countries stems back to a series of tweets from Canada's Foreign Ministry last week, when Ottawa expressed concern over arrested civil society activists in Saudi Arabia.

That's less than 10 per cent of total imports and amounts to a "drop in the bucket" compared with the United States, she said, which accounts for two-thirds of imports and could easily cover Saudi's share thanks to growing domestic production.

"The United States supports respect for internationally recognized freedoms and individual liberties including dissent and due process", said the spokeswoman, who asked not to be named.

"This particular case regarding Canada - we have raised that with the government of Saudi Arabia".

"An aggressive response to Canada's criticism is created to send a broader message to all Western partners that the old structure in which Riyadh would quietly ignore Western demands for political liberalization is long gone", Eurasia Group's Kamel said.

McTeague said the risk of Saudi Arabia causing gas prices to rise is minimal - even locally in New Brunswick - given the "very robust market" globally for crude and Irving Oil's allocation to the USA northeast.

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Canada has since doubled down over its push for the Middle Eastern country to "immediately release" arrested campaigners and activists.

Amnesty International said Samar Badawi, the sister of jailed blogger Raif Badawi, was recently detained along with Nassima al-Sada, another prominent female activist.

Reid said there are several factors playing in the agreement's favour: the Saudis would have to pay penalties if they walk away from the deal, a pullout could hurt the country's reputation with other global trading partners and, perhaps most importantly, Riyadh wants the model of armoured vehicle that's produced in London.

On the diplomatic dispute, Kocijancic said that "we don't comment on bilateral relations".

"The world can not continue to look the other way as this relentless persecution of human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia continues".

Saudi Arabia has recalled its ambassador to Ottawa and ordered its Canadian envoy to Riyadh to leave within 24 hours, according to a Saudi Foreign Ministry statement.

The federal office says Canada imported $2.6 billion worth of goods from Saudi Arabia, with $2.5 billion of that in mineral production.

Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have publicly backed Saudi Arabia in the dispute.