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Canada: Normalize Ties With Saudi Arabia

By: Khaled A. BaRahma

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Canada and Saudi Arabia have reached an agreement to appoint new ambassadors, marking a significant development after a five-year diplomatic conflict that strained relations and impacted trade between the two nations. The decision to normalize ties with Saudi Arabia comes in the aftermath of a major fallout in 2018.

The announcement of this decision was made by Global Affairs Canada (GAC) in a statement released on Wednesday, as reported by Reuters. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had a meeting with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in November, where they likely discussed the restoration of relations, according to GAC's statement. The Saudi Arabian foreign ministry also tweeted a similar statement on the same day.

During the diplomatic feud that unfolded between the two countries, Canadian officials faced considerable challenges and had to navigate through the Saudi response, as revealed through access to information laws that granted insights from hundreds of pages of emails and memos. Among the Saudi actions were the expulsion of the Canadian ambassador, the recalling of their own ambassador, the evacuation of Saudi students from Canada, the suspension of air routes by the national airline, and an attempt to freeze existing and future agreements between Saudi ministries and Canadian companies.

One of the contentious contracts affected by the dispute was the deal involving General Dynamics, a London, Ontario-based company, to sell light-armored vehicles to Saudi Arabia. Worth $15 billion, this agreement eventually proceeded in April 2020 after the Canadian government lifted its ban on arms sales to the kingdom. It is noteworthy that this Twitter exchange also took place before the widely condemned killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which garnered condemnation from Canada and other Western nations.

Jean-Philippe Linteau, who previously served as Canada's consul general in Dubai, has been appointed as the ambassador to Saudi Arabia, as stated by Global Affairs Canada. While Canada has expressed concerns about human rights, Dennis Horak, the former Canadian ambassador who was expelled from Saudi Arabia in 2018, believes that restoring relations with the kingdom is long overdue. Horak emphasized the significance of Saudi Arabia as a major player that cannot be ignored and stated that establishing full diplomatic relations would allow Canada to have a voice at senior levels, which holds importance in Saudi Arabia. He cited Saudi Arabia's assistance in evacuating individuals from Sudan during recent conflicts in Khartoum, highlighting the kingdom's role as a key ally with an increasingly prominent role in various countries, from Syria to Yemen.

In conclusion, Canada and Saudi Arabia have made strides toward rebuilding their relationship by appointing new ambassadors, signaling a positive shift after a prolonged period of strained diplomatic ties.



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