Expelled envoy says stable Saudi Arabia needed
Kingdom branded as too big to fail
• Canadian and global foreign policy toward Saudi Arabia can’t be driven by revulsion over individual human rights cases, Canada’s most recent ambassador to the country says.
Dennis Horak, a veteran diplomat, said Canadian foreign policy can’t be dictated by cases like the imprisonment of dissident Samar Badawi or the suspected murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, whose disappearance has sparked global outrage.
“Those who know me, know I’m not this coldhearted,” said Horak.
“But you can’t let your for- eign policy be dictated by an individual or an individual case. There are broader interests that need to be there. It doesn’t mean you ignore them. It doesn’t mean you forget about them.”
Horak, who was expelled from Saudi Arabia in August after its rulers were incensed by a tweet from Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, essentially branded the desert kingdom too big to fail.
“Whether we like it or not, the world needs Saudi Arabia; if Saudi Arabia were to descend into the kind of chaos that’s potentially there, it would make Syria look like a picnic,” Horak told a meeting of the Canadian International Council in Ottawa on Tuesday night.
“We need a stable Saudi Arabia, as imperfect as it might be.”
Horak said Freeland’s tweet was “ill-advised” but the Saudi reaction was “way over the top.”
Saudi Arabia abruptly severed relations with Canada and demanded an apology after Freeland called for the immediate release of detained activists, including Badawi, a champion of women’s rights and the sister of detained blogger Raif Badawi.
On Tuesday, Freeland joined G7 foreign ministers in affirming freedom of the press and calling on Saudi Arabia to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into Khashoggi’s disappearance.
Khashoggi, a Saudi citizen and a U.S. resident, has written critically of the Saudi regime. He hasn’t been seen since entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul two weeks ago, and multiple leaks of the investigation say he was killed by a Saudi hit squad.
Freeland said Tuesday that Canada is worried about the disappearance, and she made no apologies for pushing a human rights agenda with Saudi Arabia.
“Canada has raised the issue directly with Saudi Arabia and we are talking about the issue with our allies,” Freeland said at the Fortune Global Forum in Toronto.
Freeland said she’s been in contact with her G7 and NATO counterparts, including U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, as well as the German, British and Turkish foreign ministers.
Freeland also dropped a strong hint that she has no regrets about the tweet that raised the ire of Saudi rulers.
“It’s important to have private conversations. But I do think it’s a mistake — and it can be frankly a selfserving mistake — to think that a private conversation is always an equally effective substitute to taking a public stand,” Freeland said.
“And sometimes it’s important to take a public stand.”