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Russia sides with Saudi Arabia as diplomatic rift with Canada escalates

Russia voiced support for Saudi Arabia amid an ongoing diplomatic rift with Canada. [Getty]

Date of publication: 8 August, 2018

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Russia voiced support for Saudi Arabia on Wednesday amid an ongoing diplomatic rift with Canada, accusing the country of "politicising" human rights.

Russia voiced support for Saudi Arabia on Wednesday amid an ongoing diplomatic rift with Canada, accusing the country of "politicising" human rights.

Saudi Arabia expelled the Canadian ambassador on Monday and froze "all new business" with Ottawa over criticism of its arrest of women's rights activists.

Riyadh also said it will relocate thousands of Saudi students studying in Canada to other countries, while state airline Saudia announced it was suspending flights to Toronto.

Experts said the move illustrates how the oil-rich kingdom is increasingly seeking to use its economic and diplomatic muscle to quell foreign criticism under its young de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

"We consistently and firmly advocate compliance with universal human rights with due regard for the specific national customs and traditions that developed in a given country over a long period of time," Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement posted on the ministry's website.

"We have always said that the politicization of human rights matters is unacceptable."

The statement added that Russia rejected the "authoritative tone" of Canada towards Saudi Arabia.

Canada infuriated Riyadh last week when it called for the "immediate release" of rights campaigners, including award-winning women's rights activist Samar Badawi, the sister of jailed blogger Raif Badawi.

Samar Badawi was arrested along with fellow campaigner Nassima al-Sadah last week, the latest victims of what Human Rights Watch called an "unprecedented government crackdown" on women activists.

Saudi Arabia ramped up the rhetoric in the dispute on Wednesday, saying there was no room for mediation in the dispute with Canada and that Ottawa knew it needed to "fix its big mistake".

"There is nothing to mediate. A mistake has been made and a mistake should be corrected," Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told a news conference in Riyadh.

The kingdom was still "considering additional measures" against Canada, said Jubeir, without elaborating.

Arab countries, including Bahrain, Palestine, Jordan and the UAE, have lined up in support of Saudi Arabia after it took trade and diplomatic measures against Canada.

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