Last month, Saudi Arabia froze new trade with Canada, blocked grain imports, expelled Canada’s ambassador and ordered all Saudi students home after Ottawa called for the release of activists detained for urging more rights for women.
Freeland said she had been in regular touch with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Jubeir, who is due to be in New York this week for a session of the United Nations General Assembly.
“I do want to recognize the hard work he has been doing. He is very engaged on the issue … we are hoping to meet in New York this week and I think that’s a good thing,” she told an event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.
Freeland, however, made clear that Canada would not be changing its fundamental position. One of those arrested was women’s rights campaigner Samar Badawi, whose brother is serving a 10-year prison sentence. His wife and children are Canadian.
“Canada will always stand up for human rights … we feel a particular obligation to women who are fighting for their rights around the world,” she said. “And we feel a particular obligation to people who have a personal connection to Canada.”