The United States on Tuesday declined to get involved in a diplomatic dispute between Canada and Saudi Arabia, two of its closest allies.
Both countries have recalled each other’s ambassadors after Canada criticized the Saudis for arresting human rights activists.
“Regarding Canada, we have raised that with the government of Saudi Arabia. They are friends. They are partners. Both sides need to diplomatically resolve this together. We can’t do it for them,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Tuesday.
Nauert said the U.S. would ask the Saudis for more information about the arrests and urged them to “respect due process.”
The Canadian foreign ministry demanded the Saudis free Samar Badawi and other “peaceful human rights activists” who have been jailed for their work inside the conservative kingdom.
The Saudi government accused Canada of interfering in its internal affairs. It recalled its ambassador to Canada and expelled the Canadian ambassador to Riyadh.
Riyadh also ordered about 16,000 Saudi students studying in Canada to come home. It has suspended direct flights to Toronto — Canada’s largest city — and is putting all new business with Canadian companies on hold.
Badawi’s brother Raif — winner of the European Union’s Sakharov Prize for human rights — has been in a Saudi prison since 2012 and was given 1,000 lashes on charges of insulting Islam in a blog.
Raif Badawi’s wife and three children live in Quebec, and became Canadian citizens last month.