Ex­pelled en­voy says sta­ble Saudi Ara­bia needed

King­dom branded as too big to fail

Calgary Herald - - NEWS - Mike Blanch­field

• 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.”

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