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Saudi official says Canada dispute won't affect oil sales

Last Updated Aug 9, 2018 at 11:53 am EST

An energy economist says Canada can easily replace the oil it imports from Saudi Arabia should relations with the Middle Eastern kingdom deteriorate to the point that trade in crude is halted. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Hasan Jamali

Saudi Arabia’s energy minister is assuring Canada that the kingdom’s diplomatic dispute with Ottawa won’t affect oil sales.

The state-run Saudi Press Agency carried a statement today quoting Khalid al-Falih making the comments.

The statement says there’s a “firm and longstanding policy that is not influenced by political circumstances.”

It adds “the current diplomatic crisis between Saudi Arabia and Canada will not, in any way, impact Saudi Aramco’s relations with its customers in Canada.”

Some 10 per cent of Canada’s oil imports come from Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia expelled the Canadian ambassador on Monday and froze “all new business” with Ottawa over its criticism of the ultraconservative kingdom’s arrest of women’s rights activists.

The kingdom plans to pull out thousands of students and medical patients from Canada over the spat.

A federal official says Canada remains unclear about the measures Saudi Arabia is taking.

The official says Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland spoke with her Saudi counterpart Tuesday in part to get clarity about the measures, including one report that said Saudi banks and pension funds had been ordered to sell off their Canadian assets.

Saudi Arabia has not confirmed that report, and the official – who spoke on condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of the matter – says a full understanding of their plans remains elusive.

The official says Freeland made clear to Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir that Canada’s foreign policy is to express its position publicly, not just behind closed doors.

Freeland has also discussed the situation with counterparts in Sweden and Germany, but hasn’t yet connected with anyone in the U.S. or the U.K., which have so far not expressed public support for Canada’s position.