The United States can’t help Saudi Arabia and Canada solve their ongoing diplomatic row, according to US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert.
The dispute stems from a statement last week from Canada’s foreign ministry in which the country said it was “gravely concerned” over a wave of arrests of women and human rights campaigners in the kingdom.
In response, Saudi Arabia expelled Ottawa’s ambassador in Riyadh, frozen trade and investment relations with Canada and suspended academic scholarships to Canada, with the Saudi foreign ministry saying the Canadian position is “an overt and blatant interference in the internal affairs of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
Speaking to reporters at the State Department on Tuesday, Nauert said that both Canada and Saudi Arabia are friends and partners of the United States, and that the American government “is in dialogue” with Saudi Arabia on human rights and a number of other issues.
“Both sides need to diplomatically resolve this together. We can’t do it for them,” she said.
“The United States has respect for international recognised freedoms and also individual liberty. That has not changed, and that’s basically where we stand today.
Pressed by journalists, Nauert refused to say whether the United States agreed with Canada’s position on the Saudi detainees.
“We have had conversations with them about this as it pertains to Canada,” she said. “But we would encourage both governments to work out their issues together. It’s a diplomatic issue. Saudi Arabia and Canada can certainly stand to work it out together.”
According to a Reuters report, Canada has reached out to a number of its allies to help settle the dispute with Saudi Arabia, including the UAE and UK.