10 August 2018, News Wires — A row over human rights in Saudi Arabia will not have any impact on Saudi oil supplies to Canada, its energy minister said on Thursday, reassuring customers after Riyadh froze new trade with Canada and ruled out mediation efforts.
Saudi Arabia, angered by Canada’s demand last week that jailed activists in the kingdom be freed immediately, expelled the Canadian ambassador, blocked imports of Canadian grain and ended state-backed educational and medical programs in Canada.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appeared to extend an olive branch on Wednesday, saying he would keep pressing Saudi Arabia on civil liberties but also saying the Gulf Arab state had made some progress on human rights.
The Saudi Ambassador to Canada said in an interview with al Arabiya television on Thursday that Trudeau’s comments were positive, but more needed to be done.
“There is no doubt that the Prime Minister’s talk can be described as positive but we are still waiting for more to bridge the gap between the two friendly countries,” Naif bin Bandar al-Sudairi said.
The dispute has threatened to undermine Riyadh’s foreign investment drive, a campaign already unsettled by a series of assertive political and diplomatic initiatives by the top oil exporter.
Saudi Arabia has a “firm and long-standing policy” that petroleum supplies are not influenced by political considerations, Khalid al-Falih said in a statement.
“The current diplomatic crisis between Saudi Arabia and Canada will not, in any way, impact Saudi Aramco’s relations with its customers in Canada.”
The Financial Times said on Wednesday the Saudi central bank and state pension funds had told their overseas asset managers to sell their Canadian equities, bonds and cash holdings.
A banking source said the Saudi central bank had asked for their bank’s exposure to Canadian assets, but there were no instructions to sell them.
Canadian lender CIBC estimates Canadian dollar-denominated FX reserves held by Saudi Arabia at roughly C$10 billion to C$25 billion, or less than a tenth of daily volume in the currency.