January 3, 2016 8:59 pm
Updated: January 4, 2016 7:40 pm

Federal government denounces mass executions in Saudi Arabia

WATCH: A toxic relationship between Saudi Arabia and Iran serves no one in the region. But while world leaders urge calm, who really has enough influence to make a difference in a confrontation between two countries vying for dominance in the Middle East? Vassy Kapelos looks at Canada's role.

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The Liberal government has released a statement denouncing the execution of 47 people in Saudi Arabia Saturday.

“Canada opposes the death penalty and decries the execution of 47 individuals in Saudi Arabia,” Minister of Foreign Affairs Stéphane Dion said in a statement.

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“The Government of Canada raises concerns about human rights and due process with senior Saudi Arabian officials on a regular basis and will continue to do so. In the wake of these executions, we reiterate our call to the Government of Saudi Arabia to protect human rights, respect peaceful expressions of dissent and ensure fairness in judicial proceedings.

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Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a prominent Shiite cleric, was among the executed, which has led to increased tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warned Saudi Arabia on Sunday of “divine revenge” over al-Nimr’s death, while Riyadh accused Tehran of supporting “terrorism” in a war of words that threatened to escalate even as the U.S. and the European Union sought to calm the region.

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The Saudis have severed diplomatic ties with Shiite powerhouse Iran and recalled all diplomatic personnel from Iran while also expelling their counterparts, allowing the Iranian diplomats 48 hours to leave Saudi Arabia.

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Dion asked both sides to work within their states to ease the situation.

“Canada is particularly concerned that the execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr could further inflame sectarian tensions in the region,” he said. “We urge Saudi Arabian authorities and local and regional leaders, including those in Iran, to work with all communities to defuse these tensions and promote reconciliation.”

-With files from The Canadian Press

 

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