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Saudi Arabia's Jubeir says arms deal with Canada will go ahead

Saudi diplomat's remarks come after Canada's prime minister said his country is looking for a way out of the agreement
Jubeir says Canadian remarks about the sale are for 'domestic consumption' (Reuters)

Top Saudi diplomat Adel al-Jubeir has dismissed the possibility of Canada's scrapping a $12bn-deal to sell armoured vehicles to the kingdom in light of a diplomatic spat between the two countries.

Speaking at a news conference after meeting Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in Riyadh, the Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs said that the Canadians are following through with the agreement.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had said late last year that Ottawa is looking for a way out of the deal.

"We are engaged with the export permits to try and see if there is a way of no longer exporting these vehicles to Saudi Arabia," Trudeau told CTV last December.

On Monday, Jubeir suggested that Trudeau's remarks were aimed at his political base in Canada.

"We see and hear statements from Canadian officials from time to time, including the Canadian prime minister, that they will reassess this deal, and that Canada will try to find an exit out of the deal," Jubeir said.

In reality, he added, the Canadian government is "strongly" honouring the deal.

"This may indicate that these statements are for mere domestic consumption," Jubeir said.

Riyadh and Ottawa fell into a diplomatic dispute last summer, after the Canadian government urged Saudi Arabia to release human rights campaigners.

Saudi authorities took offence to the call, deeming it an interference in the kingdom's internal affairs, and froze all new trade with Canada.

The $12bn-deal survived the impasse. But the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the hand of Saudi government agents sparked renewed Canadian calls for scrapping arms sales to the Gulf kingdom.

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General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada, the company manufacturing the vehicles, said late last year that Canada "would incur billions of dollars of liability" should it unilaterally cancel the contract.

Cesar Jaramillo, executive director of anti-war group Project Ploughshares, told Middle East Eye last December that the Canadian government has failed to halt weapon sales to Saudi Arabia.

"The reality is that Canadian arms are still being shipped," Jaramillo said at the time.

"It is important to remember that despite all the talk about how difficult it is for Canada to halt arms exports to Saudi Arabia, the Canadian government has always had the sovereign prerogative to stop them any day it wanted to - including today."