Speaking to reporters at a press conference in Buenos Aires, Trudeau said he had a “frank” exchange with Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader on the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, the imprisonment of blogger Raif Badawi and the recent diplomatic spat between Ottawa and Riyadh.
“I spoke directly to the crown prince to highlight our concerns and our need for better answers on the killing of Khashoggi,” Trudeau said.
But Trudeau said his biggest concern was the situation in Yemen, where a humanitarian crisis is unfolding in the midst of a long, destructive war between a Saudi-led coalition supporting the Yemeni government and Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.
Trudeau said he conveyed to Prince Salman “the need for an immediate ceasefire and humanitarian aid to go to Yemen, which is the largest human catastrophe going on in the world right now.”
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He added that discussions on the Yemen crisis had come up repeatedly over the course of the G20 summit, with the humanitarian crisis in the Arab world’s most impoverished nation “really top of mind for a lot of people here and now.”
The prime minister said he also spoke to Prince Salman about the Canadian-Saudi diplomatic spat sparked by Canada’s criticism in August of the conservative kingdom’s imprisonment of human rights activists.
Trudeau said he told the 33-year-old crown prince that Canada would always look to “improve opportunities and protections and rights for people around the world, including in Saudi Arabia.”
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On the question of human rights, Trudeau said he reminded Prince Salman of Canadians’ “preoccupation” with the continued imprisonment of liberal blogger Raif Badawi.
Trudeau said he told the crown prince that he hoped Badawi, whose wife and children moved to Quebec as refugees and became Canadian citizens earlier this year, would be released from prison soon.
He declined to state how Prince Salman reacted to any of his comments, saying only that the conversations were “frank” in nature.
Also on the agenda were economic matters, Trudeau said, although he didn’t elaborate.
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