Saudi Arabia and Canada have announced the resumption of diplomatic relations, effectively ending a contentious dispute that originated in 2018 over human rights concerns.
In separate statements, both countries expressed their intention to restore diplomatic ties to the level that existed prior to the 2018 fallout. Additionally, they revealed plans to appoint new ambassadors, with Canada selecting Jean-Philippe Linteau from its Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, while Saudi Arabia’s ambassador is yet to be announced.
The decision to mend relations came after discussions between Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum in November. The move reflects a desire for “mutual respect and common interests,” as stated by Canada.
The initial rupture in diplomatic relations occurred when Saudi Arabia detained several prominent female human rights activists in 2018. Among those arrested was Samar Badawi, whose brother, Raif Badawi, was a dissident imprisoned at the time. Raif Badawi’s wife and children had sought refuge in Canada and were granted citizenship.
These arrests prompted Canada’s foreign minister to express support for the activists on social media, followed by a similar statement from the foreign ministry itself. Canada called for the immediate release of all detained peaceful human rights activists, including Samar Badawi.
This stance led to a Twitter dispute with Saudi Arabia, which accused Canada of interfering in its internal affairs and violating the principle of sovereignty. Saudi Arabia responded by recalling its ambassador to Canada, designating Canada’s ambassador as “persona non grata,” and demanding his departure within 24 hours.
Subsequently, relations between the two countries remained strained, especially after Canada joined other nations in condemning the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. Canada labeled the killing as an attack on freedom of expression and imposed sanctions on Saudi nationals linked to the incident.
However, in recent months, Saudi Arabia has pursued diplomatic reconciliations on the international stage. It reestablished diplomatic relations with Iran in March, facilitated by China, and resumed ties with Syria this month. Furthermore, the country hosted Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during the Arab League summit.
Saudi Arabia has also played a role in mediating peace efforts in Sudan, hosting talks between representatives of the country’s warring factions. The United States has been involved in these negotiations as well, with White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan engaging in discussions with Saudi officials regarding peace in Yemen.