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Over 150 Sask. students could be affected by Saudi dispute

Over 150 Sask. students could be affected by Saudi dispute

In addition to the other measures enacted, Saudi Arabia said Monday that it would relocate about 7,000 Saudi scholarship recipients studying in Canada.

The moves were a stern rebuke to Canada after the country on Friday expressed concern over the arrests of activists in Saudi Arabia, including prominent women's rights campaigner Samar Badawi, and called for their release.

The Saudi Foreign Ministry took exception to the wording of the tweet, calling it an attempt by Canada to interfere with the country's internal affairs. It is unclear how many people this will affect, however, the Vancouver Sun said in 2015 about 5,000 news students arrive from Saudi Arabia each year.

Canada's largest refinery in Saint John, N.B., owned by Irving Oil, relies on Saudi Arabia for almost 40 per cent of its crude supply, according 2018 statistics from the National Energy Board.

The sudden and unexpected dispute bore the hallmarks of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia's 32-year-old future leader, whose recent foreign policy exploits include the war in Yemen, the boycott of Qatar and Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri's surprise resignation broadcast during a visit to the kingdom. Despite those ideals, however, the country has continued to take aggressive actions against some neighbours, and concerns about domestic human rights practices persist.

She noted it's unclear how numerous students are impacted by the Saudi government's decision to axe their scholarships, but there are options available to help them stay.

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Transport Canada did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the development.

On Tuesday, Finance Minister Bill Morneau appeared to downplay the financial impact of the diplomatic dispute. "(The ambassador) was very clear in saying he was irritated by what he saw as passivity by the Canadian government, which in his view was not resisting that criticism". "This is something where we know we need to lead with our values".

The city's General Dynamics Land Systems plant has been providing light armoured vehicles to Saudi security forces, thanks to a $15-billion contract signed by the Canadian government in 2014.

Saudi state airline Saudia also announced Monday that it would suspend flights to and from Toronto starting August 13.

Saudi Arabia operates at least two routes to the country, both of which depart from Toronto.

Dan McTeague, a senior analyst at the fuel price tracking website GasBuddy, said any such disruption could easily be offset by alternative supply, as Saudi Arabia's oil continues to represent an increasingly small portion of Canada's crude imports.

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The United States said Tuesday that both Canada and Saudi Arabia are "close partners" of the US, and asked the Saudi government for more information of the detention of several activists.

Nauert added that the United States "would encourage the government of Saudi Arabia overall to address and respect due process".

"Our diplomats have asked procedural questions today and we're waiting for answers for how Saudi Arabia intends to go forward with the relationship", she said.

Analysts say the dispute between Riyadh and Ottawa shows Saudi Arabia won't accept any outside criticism and will continue flexing its muscles overseas, especially as the kingdom enjoys a closer relationship with President Donald Trump.

Saudi neighbours Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have voiced solidarity with Riyadh, according to media reports.

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