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Tribune News Network
Qatar has expressed surprise over the statements issued by Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Secretary-General Dr Abdullatif al Zayani on the current diplomatic crisis between Saudi Arabia and Canada.
An official source at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) on Monday said those statements do not express the opinion of Qatar.
The source added that Qatar and Canada have had a strong relationship for decades and stressed the need to protect the right of countries and international organisations to express their views, especially when it comes to violations of human rights and freedom of expression.
On Monday, Saudi Arabia said it was expelling the Canadian ambassador and recalling its envoy while freezing all new trade, in retaliation for Ottawa's vigorous calls for the release of jailed activists.
Saudi gave envoy Dennis Horak 24 hours to leave the country, in an abrupt break in relations over what it slammed as"interference" in its internal affairs.
Ottawa said it was"seriously concerned" and was seeking"greater clarity" on the shock move, which was announced on Twitter by the Saudi foreign ministry.
The rupture comes after Canada denounced a new crackdown on human rights activists.
Canada last week said it was"gravely concerned" over a new wave of arrests of women and human rights campaigners in the kingdom, including award-winning gender rights activist Samar Badawi.
"We urge the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful #humanrights activists," the Canadian foreign ministry tweeted on Friday.
Canada doubled down on Monday, with foreign ministry spokeswoman Marie-Pier Baril saying:"Canada will always stand up for the protection of human rights, very much including women's rights, and freedom of expression around the world."
"Our government will never hesitate to promote these values and believes that this dialogue is critical to international diplomacy," she added.
Samar was arrested along with fellow campaigner Nassima al Sadah last week, the latest victims of what Human Rights Watch called an"unprecedented government crackdown on the women's rights movement".
The latest arrests come weeks after more than a dozen women's rights campaigners were detained and accused of undermining national security and collaborating with enemies of the state.
In April, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed his"serious concern" over the continued jailing of Raif Badawi.
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