Diplomat says Canada may need to get used to being alone on world stage

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One week into the Canada-Saudi Arabia spat and there has been very little high-profile public support for the Canadian position.

Spokespeople from countries considered Canada’s closest allies offered bluntly neutral comments when pressed on the diplomatic dispute.

One British diplomat is taken aback by his country’s public reaction.

“I confess that I’m very disappointed by it,” said Anthony Cary, a former British High Commissioner to Canada.

“There was a time when Canada could have rightly expected to receive the core support from the United States and from the United Kingdom, as its closest partners,” he said in interview with CBC News from his home in London.

But a senior research fellow, from whom the Canadian government sought advice on this dispute, says the British are heavily involved in quietly defusing the tensions.

“The United Kingdom in particular is working very hard behind the scenes to try and cool this problem down,” said Michael Stephens of the Royal United Services Institute.

“It’s sort of going through British diplomatic channels and it’s being done obviously quietly. This is not something which needs to play out on Twitter,” he said during an interview from his office.

“At the end of the day, enough damage has been done in public.”

CBC News reported earlier in the week, that Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is reaching out to her international counterparts for advice on how to navigate this dispute.

Stephens said that from the perspective of Canada’s allies, quiet conversations include reassurances for Ottawa, while another message is delivered to Riyadh.

“We understand that you’re upset, but this is counterproductive, and actually what you’re doing is you’re harming yourself by trying to escalate this further,” Stephens said of the discussions with the Saudis.

Still the diplomatic community has noticed a gaping hole in public solidarity that appears to be lingering over the Saudi affair.

Earlier this week, the British Foreign Office issued just a three-line statement that read in part: “Canada and Saudi Arabia are both close partners … and we urge restraint.”

The U.S. urged Canada to go it alone.

“Both sides need to diplomatically resolve this together. We can’t do it for them,” said U.S. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert.

Source:CBC/MS
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