Canada eager to rebuild ‘great relationship’ with Saudi Arabia

Canada eager to rebuild ‘great relationship’ with Saudi Arabia
Canada eager to rebuild ‘great relationship’ with Saudi Arabia

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - RIYADH: Canada is ready to rebuild a “great relationship” with Saudi Arabia, its ambassador to the Kingdom said.

Jean-Philippe Linteau made the comments during an interview with Arab News ahead of an event on Thursday at the Canadian Embassy in Riyadh to mark the North American country’s Flag Day.

“We’re very excited to host our Flag Day celebration and it will be the first time in many, many years that Canada is inviting people to celebrate,” he said.

“But really, this is about Canada showing that it is back, it is present and it is putting an emphasis on rebuilding a great relationship with Saudi Arabia.

What is happening in Saudi Arabia is unique in the world. No other country is changing as quickly as Saudi Arabia under Vision 2030. And so, really, that’s where I see the opportunity for collaboration.

Jean-Philippe Linteau

“Flag day is about celebrating our national symbol, the maple leaf. In 1965 Canada adopted the maple leaf in the flag that you know today.”

Linteau said Canada was a diverse country of people from all over the world.

“What brings us together really is the national ethos, which is to have an open society, a peaceful society that values diversity. And so the maple leaf is really something that allows Canadians to assemble and to celebrate those values.”

On the resumption of diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Canada, the ambassador described the current relationship as “warm.”

The decision to restore ties was announced by the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs in May 2023 following talks between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum in Bangkok in November 2022.

“Since the normalization of bilateral diplomatic relations in May 2023, I personally have been welcomed very warmly in Saudi Arabia, both by the leadership but also by ordinary Saudis all over the country, wherever I’ve been,” Linteau said.

The same warmth was evident in the meetings between the leaders of the two countries, he said.

“Prime Minister Trudeau and His Royal Highness, the Crown Prince, Mohammad bin Salman, have been have been communicating, talking together a number of times. We’ve had ministers visiting back and forth between the two countries and a lot more to come.”

Since the resumption of diplomatic relations the economic and security collaborations between Canada and Saudi Arabia had strengthened, Linteau said.

These included the restoration of scholarships for Saudi students to study in Canada, flights from Jeddah to Toronto and the resumption of the Business Council.

On the subject of the Kingdom’s growth and diversification, the ambassador said he had seen “incredible” changes.

“That growth is linked to the transformation of Saudi Arabia and the economic transformation, economic diversification in Saudi Arabia,” he said, adding that the changes had generated a lot of interest among Canadian business leaders.

“For the Future Minerals Forum, we had over 150 Canadians who came here. Whenever we organize a trade mission to Saudi Arabia, we get an unprecedented number of participants and there is not a week that passes without a Canadian company opening an office in Saudi Arabia.”

Canadian companies were working in a host of different sectors in the Kingdom, outside of oil and gas, in fields as diverse as clean technologies, digital health and blockchain, he said.

On the issue of security, Linteau said Canada and Saudi Arabia agreed on the importance of peace and stability to drive economic development and prosperity and ensure better lives for people across the region and around the world.

“If you name any crisis that’s going on in the world: Ukraine, Sudan, Yemen, Palestine — Canada and Saudi Arabia have been collaborating. Our foreign ministers have been talking and we see eye to eye on what needs to happen for us to find solutions, find a way forward in those crises.

“What is happening in Saudi Arabia is unique in the world. No other country is changing as quickly as Saudi Arabia under Vision 2030. And so, really, that’s where I see the opportunity for collaboration.”

Linteau, who took up his role in May last year, said that during his mission in the Kingdom he would like to see more cooperation in the educational sector, through not only student exchanges but also partnerships between institutions.

The Canadian Embassy will in May host the Saudi-Canada Education Partnership forum in Riyadh.

The envoy said he would also like to see greater collaboration on issues of sustainability and climate action, as well as more people-to-people cooperation through exchange visits.

“I want to see more people travel from Canada to Saudi Arabia so that they get an understanding about how this country has changed,” he said.

“And I want to see Saudis go to Canada to explain how the country has changed. So all that will lead us to a more fruitful bilateral relationship.”


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