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Ambassador expelled

Saudi Arabia expelled the Canadian ambassador on Monday and froze "all new business" with Ottawa over its criticism of the ultraconservative kingdom's arrest of women's rights activists — yet another warning to the West reflecting Riyadh's newly assertive foreign policy.

The sudden and unexpected dispute bore the hallmarks of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia's 32-year-old future leader, whose recent foreign policy exploits include the war in Yemen, the boycott of Qatar and Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri's surprise resignation broadcast during a visit to the kingdom. Hariri later rescinded the resignation, widely believed to be orchestrated by Riyadh, and returned to Beirut.

Analysts say the dispute between Riyadh and Ottawa shows Saudi Arabia won't accept any outside criticism and will continue flexing its muscles abroad, especially as the kingdom enjoys a closer relationship with President Donald Trump.

"This message is obviously not just being sent to Ottawa," said Giorgio Cafiero, the CEO of Gulf State Analytics, a Washington-based risk consultancy. "It's a message to countries across Europe and across the rest of the world that criticism of Saudi Arabia . has consequences."

The Saudi Foreign Ministry made the announcement early Monday, giving Ambassador Dennis Horak 24 hours to leave the kingdom. It wasn't immediately clear if he was in the kingdom. Saudi Arabia said it would recall its ambassador to Canada as well.

"Any further step from the Canadian side in that direction will be considered as acknowledgment of our right to interfere in Canadian domestic affairs," the Foreign Ministry said. "Canada and all other nations need to know that they can't claim to be more concerned than the kingdom over its own citizens."

Saudi state television later reported that the Education Ministry was coming up with an "urgent plan" to move thousands of Saudi scholarship students out of Canadian schools to take classes in other countries. The Saudi state airline, Saudia, said in a statement on its official Twitter account that it would suspend all flights to Toronto starting next Monday, Aug. 13.

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

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said in a statement that Canada was "deeply concerned that Saudi Arabia has expelled Canada's ambassador in response to Canadian statements in defence of human rights activists detained in the kingdom."

Freeland also addressed the dispute in a speech in Vancouver.

"Let me very clear with everyone here and with Canadians who (are) maybe watching and listening. Canada will always stand up for human rights in Canada and around the world, and women's rights are human rights," she said.

The statement said the Canadian Embassy in Riyadh was continuing regular operations.



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