JEDDAH: There is “nothing to mediate” in Saudi Arabia’s dispute with Canada and Ottawa knows what it must do to “fix its big mistake,” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said on Wednesday.
“I’m sure it was a mistake and they now must rectify that mistake. The ball is in Canada’s court,” Al-Jubeir told a news conference in Riyadh.
“Saudi Arabia is considering taking further measures,” he said. “This is a crisis that the Kingdom did not want, but was forced upon us.”
The dispute began last week when Canada urged Saudi Arabia to release civil society activists detained on security charges. In response, Saudi Arabia accused Canada of interfering in the internal affairs of an independent sovereign state, expelled the Canadian ambassador, recalled its own envoy, froze new trade and ended educational and medical programs in Canada.
“The Kingdom does not interfere with other countries’ internal affairs nor does it accept other countries’ interference,” Al-Jubeir said.
He also said that Canada should change its approach in dealing with Saudi Arabia, adding that it “knows what it needs to do.”
He told Saudi citizens that the Kingdom is keen on protecting their interests in Canada.
Canadian investments in Saudi Arabia were still ongoing and would not be affected by the dispute, he said. “What we have stopped is further investments. It is difficult to deal with a nation that believes it can lecture you and interfere in your domestic affairs.”
The charges against the detainees would be made public once their cases reach the courts, Al-Jubeir said. “The matter is not about human rights, it is a matter of national security,” he said. “These people are agents.”
The Saudi stance in the dispute has been supported by individuals, organizations and states throughout the Arab and Muslim worlds, joined on Wednesday by Russia, which accused Canada of attempting to “politicize human rights issues.”
Russia rejected the “authoritative tone” of Canada toward Saudi Arabia, and said the Kingdom had the full sovereign right to manage its own affairs.
“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. We have always said that the politicization of human rights matters is unacceptable,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.
She said Russia believed the Kingdom had entered a path toward large-scale socioeconomic reform, and “has the sovereign right to decide how it will proceed in this vital sphere.”
Zakharova said it would have been better if Canada had offered “constructive advice and assistance rather than criticism.
“At the same time, we hope that Saudi Arabia and Canada will find a civilized solution to their differences.”