Pompeo speaks with Canadian FM, calls for resolution of Saudi dispute

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Washington : US State Department said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has spoken with his Canadian counterpart Chrystia Freeland to discuss Canada's diplomatic dispute with Saudi Arabia, urging the two sides to solve their disputes quickly.

According to a statement issued on Thursday by State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert, Pompeo on Wednesday spoke over telephone with Freeland, as the US top diplomat "reiterated the US' commitment to our close partnerships with both Canada and Saudi Arabia", Xinhua reported. He also extended the "hope for a quick resolution of differences through diplomatic channels". The US on August 14 tacitly ruled out intervening in the current diplomatic spat between Canada and Saudi Arabia, though it said it supported free speech. In a press briefing, Nauert said Pompeo believes "this is an issue for the Canadians and... for the Saudis to resolve themselves." "It's not necessary for the US to have to step in between two countries that... have the ability to pick up the phone and handle these issues among themselves," she said. Recently, Saudi Arabia expelled the Canadian ambassador, froze new trade and investment in Canada and withdrew thousands of Riyadh-funded students from Canada. It also announced the suspension of Saudi Arabian Airlines flights to and from Toronto. The measures were taken to show the kingdom's displeasure at Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and other officials criticising the detention of women's rights activists in Saudi Arabia and urging for their immediate release. Riyadh called it an intervention in its internal affairs. As the dispute escalated, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last week that Canada will always stand up for human rights. In response, Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir ruled out the possibility of mediation and warned of more measures against Canada. Saudi Arabia is Canada's 19th largest trading partner and the source of some 10 per cent of Canadian crude oil imports. Trade between the two countries amounts to nearly 4 billion Canadian dollars (about $3 billion) annually, according to reports.