Saudi-Canada row: What the sanctions are really about

Saudi-students

Later Monday, the row appeared to escalate as Riyadh said it will relocate thousands of Saudi students studying in Canada to other countries, and state airline Saudia announced it was suspending flights to and from Toronto.

Amid growing diplomatic tensions between Saudi Arabia and Canada, the middle eastern country has rescinded scholarships for all of its students (over 16,000) studying in Canadian universities.

But Canada has stood firm, with Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland insisting it would defend human rights around the world.

In response, the Saudi government has expelled Canada's ambassador from the country and frozen all new trade with Canada.

The dispute ostensibly arose because of a tweet issued by Canada's Global Affairs Ministry decrying the arrest and detention of two female bloggers and activists and urging Saudi authorities to immediately free the two women - one of whom was Samar Badawi, sister of jailed blogger Raif Badawi - as well as "all peaceful human rights activists".

The government also froze all new trade with Canada, and ordered approximately 16,000 Saudi students studying overseas in Canada to return home or complete their study in other countries. "But I would not deliver Canadian grains to Saudi Arabia now, even on previous contracts", the trader added.

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A pro-government Saudi Twitter account provoked outrage when it posted - then deleted - a 9/11-style digitally altered image showing an Air Canada plane flying towards Canada's tallest skyscraper the CN Tower.

"When it comes to the broader relationship with Saudi Arabia, our diplomats have asked procedural questions today and we're waiting for answers on how Saudi Arabia intends to go forward with the relationship", she said in Vancouver.

"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.

Crown Prince Mohammed, as heir to the throne, is in line to become the first Saudi king from a new generation after a succession of six brothers dating to 1953. His wife, Ensaf Haidar, lives in Canada and recently became a Canadian citizen.

Media captionSaudi Arabia's permanent representative to the United Nations confirmed the change in policy What has the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Canada been like in the past?

Garry Keller, who was chief of staff to ex-Conservative Foreign Minister John Baird, said the government needed to look at how it could help businesses that might be affected.

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