Experts point to Ottawa’s diplomatic blunders under Chrystia Freeland

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Foreign policy analysts anticipate additional Saudi sanctions against Canada, in addition to freezing of trade relations between the two countries. This means suspending scholarships for Saudi nationals in Canada, where more than 15,000 Saudis are pursuing university degrees in Canada who will now be sent to other countries.

This constitutes a massive economic loss for the Canadian economy.

In his news conference on Wednesday, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir stressed that there was no scope for any mediation between the Kingdom and Canada, considering that it is up to Ottawa to “fix its big mistake”.

Although al-Jubeir said that the freeze will only affect the new agreements, experts predict that this action will have repercussions even on previous ones.

This is not the first time that Trudeau’s government has risked losing contracts.

Experts blame Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, who has already stirred controversy several times for her uncompromising approach that does not respect the sanctity of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Earlier this year, the Philippines froze a contract to buy 14 Canadian helicopters for its armed forces after Ottawa criticized President Rodrigo Duterte’s strict policy and so-called “repeated human rights abuses” there.

Some suspect that Ottawa’s recent comments have nothing to do with rights issues.

In a telephone call with AFP, Amir Attaran, Professor at Ottawa University, offered the view that “the issue has nothing to do with human rights.”

“It is a silly pretense. There are geopolitical stakes, especially regarding the strategic, geopolitical rivalries between Saudi Arabia and Iran.”

Opponent of action against Tehran

It is well-known that the Canadian foreign minister is one of the strongest opponents against the strict approach countries have taken in relation to Iran.

The minister had previously considered US sanctions against Iran unacceptable. The minister has repeatedly avoided making clear and explicit condemnation against Iranian politics regarding human rights, although there are Canadian citizens in Tehran prisons, one of whom died after being tortured.

Canadian conservatives call the minister “the foreign minister of Ukraine in Canada” because she has always put Ukrainian interests - her country of origin - first, on international issues. Some commentators criticised her as she, as a government high ranked official, often walks around in Canada with the Ukrainian flag.

The minister, an ex-veteran journalist and married to a well-known New York Times journalist, is banned from entering Russia, where her name is on the list of the most hostile persons to Moscow.

Former Canadian ambassador to Saudi Arabia David Chatterson expressed a similar view, saying that Canadian diplomacy had failed.

Chatterson told AFP: “I think we have diverted our attention from the goal of defending Canada's interests.”

He added: “We have failed in influencing the overall direction in Saudi Arabia. Defending Canadian Interests? No. It is a complete failure.”