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Canada is asking its allies to help cool dispute with Saudi - report

Canadian officials say Justin Trudeau's government is reaching out to the UAE and UK to defuse tensions, according to Reuters
Canadian exports to Saudi Arabia totalled about $1.12 billion in 2017 (AFP)

Canada plans to seek help from the United Arab Emirates and United Kingdom to defuse an escalating dispute with Saudi Arabia, sources told Reuters news agency on Tuesday, while the United States made clear it would not get involved.

The Saudi government on Sunday recalled its ambassador to Ottawa, barred Canada's envoy from returning and placed a ban on new trade, after Canada urged it to release jailed rights activists.

One well placed source said the Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, which has stressed the importance of human rights, planned to reach out to the United Arab Emirates.

"The key is to work with allies and friends in the region to cool things down, which can happen quickly," said the source, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the situation.

Another source said Canada would also seek help from Britain. The US and the British government on Tuesday urged the two nations to show restraint.

The United States, traditionally one of Canada's most important friends, stayed on the sidelines. US President Donald Trump, who criticised Trudeau after a Group of Seven summit in June, has forged tighter ties with Riyadh.

"Both sides need to diplomatically solve this together. We can't do it for them; they need to resolve it together," US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told a briefing.

The dispute looks set to damage what is a modest bilateral trade relationship worth nearly $4bn a year. Canadian exports to Saudi Arabia totalled about $1.12bn in 2017, or 0.2 percent of the total value of Canadian exports.

Saudi Arabia's main state wheat-buying agency has told grains exporters it will no longer buy Canadian wheat and barley in its international tenders, European traders said on Tuesday.

Canada says it does not know what will happen to a $13bn defence contract to sell Canadian-made General Dynamics Corp armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia.

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Meanwhile, Egypt joined a host of Riyadh's allies on Tuesday in expressing "solidarity" with Saudi Arabia.

Cairo's foreign ministry said on its Facebook page that it was "concerned by the crisis between Saudi Arabia and Canada, which is a result of the negative tendency by some international ... sides to meddle in the internal affairs of countries in the region," without elaborating.

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said in a tweet on Monday that he stands with Saudi Arabia in "defending its sovereignty and laws".

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas also said on Monday that he rejects Canadian interference in "internal Saudi affairs".