OTTAWA — Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister says Canada’s demand for the immediate release of social activists is akin to the Middle Eastern kingdom demanding the federal government immediately allow Quebec to separate.

Adel al-Jubeir made the comments in an interview Wednesday with the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City almost two months after diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Canada were suspended after Canadian officials urged the Saudi government in a series of tweets to release female political activists.

Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador, cancelled future financial investments in Canada, stopped direct flights between the two countries, and are looking for new options for thousands of Saudi students studying at Canadian schools.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland — whose tweet was among the ones the Saudis objected to — say the issue is about human rights.

Al-Jubeir says it is an issue of national security and that Canada’s tweets provoked extremists who use foreign funding to try and undermine Saudi Arabian reform efforts.

He says the only way to fix the stalemate is for Canada to admit it made a mistake and apologize.

The Canadian Press


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