October 12, 2018 / 2:49 PM / 6 days ago

Trudeau says Canada will maintain human rights pressure on Saudis

OTTAWA, Oct 12 (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday said he would maintain pressure on Saudi Arabia over human rights despite a diplomatic row between the two nations, and brushed off suggestions he had botched ties with Riyadh.

In August, Saudi Arabia froze new trade with Canada, expelled envoy Dennis Horak and ordered all Saudi students home after the Canadian embassy issued a tweet urging the immediate release of women's rights activists.

Horak told Reuters on Wednesday that Ottawa had not done enough to deepen ties with Riyadh and had made mistakes that helped prompt the dispute.

"The former ambassador should have known that we have been engaged in a significant diplomatic effort with Saudi Arabia for many years now on ... the issue of human rights. We continue to bring it up any time I have the opportunity to meet with Saudi leadership," Trudeau told reporters in Yerevan, Armenia.

"We will continue to be clear and strong in speaking up for human rights around the world," he added in televised remarks on the sidelines of a summit of French-speaking nations.

Trudeau also reiterated that Ottawa would not scrap a 2014 contract that the Canadian unit of U.S. weapons maker General Dynamics Corp won to supply Saudi Arabia with light-armored vehicles. The deal is worth up to $13 billion. (Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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