March 5, 2019 1:07 am

Saudi Arabia expects Canada to proceed with $15B arms deal, but there’s ‘no final decision’

WATCH (March 3): The Canadian government is still reviewing its contract to sell $13-billion worth of light-armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia.

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Saudi Arabia expects Canada to go ahead with a $15-billion arms deal that would see armoured vehicles sold to the kingdom, its minister of state for foreign affairs said Monday.

The press secretary to Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland seemed less certain, however, saying in a statement that “no final decision is being made.”

WATCH (Feb. 22): Erin O’Toole links SNC-Lavalin controversy to Saudi Arabia dispute

At a news conference in Riyadh, Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir responded to remarks by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in December, in which the Canadian leader said that his Liberals were looking for a way out of the deal.

“Regarding the Canada arms deal, we see the Canadian government going ahead with the deal so the statements are for domestic consumption,” al-Jubeir said, without explaining further.

READ MORE: Liberals looking for way out of Saudi arms deal, Trudeau says

In response to those remarks, Freeland’s press secretary Adam Austen told Global News that Canada is currently reviewing export permits to Saudi Arabia and that it hasn’t decided on anything yet regarding the arms deal.

“Canadians value human rights, and our foreign policy reflects that,” he said.

“Our government has taken firm action to strengthen our arms export system by passing legislation that enshrines human rights into our exports laws, which will allow us to accede to the Arms Trade Treaty.”

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In the statement, Austen referred to Bill C-47, legislation that received royal assent last year.

The law, Austen said, “creates a new legal requirement that the Canadian government must refuse export permits that violate key human rights criteria, including gender-based violence.

“As we have said before, we are reviewing export permits to Saudi Arabia, and no final decision has been made.”

READ MORE: Scrapping Saudi arms deal would cost Canada billions, LAV maker says

Trudeau raised export permits when he talked about pulling out of the arms deal in December.

His remarks came months after he said there could be major penalties for ending that deal — as high as $1 billion, or possibly more — but they also came following two major developments.

One was the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed after going into the country’s embassy in Turkey.

WATCH: Teen refugee from Saudi Arabia says she wants to live ‘normal, private life’ in Canada

The other was a diplomatic row that arose between Canada and Saudi Arabia after a tweet in Arabic by the Canadian embassy in Riyadh called for the release of women’s rights activist Samar Badawi.

Saudi Arabia subsequently froze trade with Canada, expelled the country’s ambassador and demanded that all Saudi students in Canada come home.

The kingdom also demanded that Canada apologize.

—With files from Mercedes Stephenson and Reuters

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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