Saudi Arabia-Canada spat hits 16,000 students as the Kingdom suspends scholarships

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Russian Federation sided with Saudi Arabia in the ongoing diplomatic rift with Canada on Wednesday, issuing a statement accusing the latter of attempting to "politicize human rights issues".

Saudi Arabia suspended diplomatic ties and halted new trade dealings late Sunday following comments by Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland criticizing the kingdom for arrests of women's rights activists.

Days after Saudi Arabia expelled Canada's ambassador, the country has made a decision to freeze new trade deals and force Saudi students studying in Canada to leave. This after it suspended direct flights to Canada by its state airline and ordered the withdrawal of 12,000 Saudi students who are in Canada on state-sponsored scholarships.

Saudi Arabia's main state wheat buying agency, the Saudi Grains Organization, has also told grains exporters it will no longer accept Canadian-origin grains in its worldwide purchase tenders, according to European traders.

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Canada sold 66,000 tonnes of wheat to Saudi Arabia last year, and slightly more the year before that, Statistics Canada data shows.

Saudi Arabia is now coordinating for the transfer of all Saudi patients from Canadian hospitals to other facilities outside of the country, according to a report from the Saudi Press Agency.

However, Saudi Arabia's Foreign Ministry called Canada's plea a "grave and unacceptable violation of the kingdom's laws and procedures".

Saudi holdings in Canada are relatively small, but not insignificant. Annual Saudi-Canadian trade hovers around $4bn.

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Jubeir added that the kingdom was still "considering additional measures" against Canada.

A source at a Saudi bank told Reuters the bank was contacted by the central bank on Wednesday afternoon asking for information about all their Canadian exposure - investments in Canada and foreign exchange positions.

The escalating trade battle between Canada and Saudi Arabia highlights the need for more pipelines to move oil and natural gas around the northern nation to improve its energy security, according to the Canadian oil industry's largest trade group.

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to hold a news conference in Montreal, where he will be pressed on the diplomatic crisis.

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