Manama: Canada has made mistakes in dealing with Saudi Arabia, the country’s former ambassador in Riyadh said.
Dennis Horak had to leave Riyadh in summer after Saudi Arabia declared him persona non grata, recalled its own ambassador from Ottawa, froze new trade deals, suspended flights to and from Toronto and ordered its students to leave in a diplomatic row.
Saudi Arabia accused Canada of interfering in its domestic affairs after Canadian officials in tweets demanded the immediate release of Saudi suspects.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir said that Canada made a mistake and knew what to do to in order fix it.
Horak explained in the interview that the Saudis believed Canada targeted their public at a time of volatility.
While some of the reforms, such as women driving and the introduction of public cinemas, are proving popular with the Saudi people, other elements “are not happy with reforms and feel that perhaps Saudi Arabia is being too compliant with Western demands,” he said.
“This would give them ammunition to say, ‘Look, we are being pushed around by the West, they’re now demanding our judicial system do X, Y and Z’.”
The former envoy said the situation did not need to occur.
“… [T]o sort of yell from the sidelines I don’t think is effective,” Horak told Canada Broadcasting Corporation during an interview. “I think we took a step too far. Whether we can come back from that, I don’t know … But we need to begin deciding, do we want this? Do we want to salvage this relationship or not?”