Canada stands pat on Saudi arms sales, even after hearing Khashoggi tape


OTTAWA — The federal government is showing no apparent signs of toughening its stance on arms sales to Saudi Arabia, even after Canada’s spy chief heard a recording of the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Speaking to reporters today in Windsor, Ont., Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland reiterated Canada’s position that no new arms-export permits will be signed for Saudi Arabia as the Khashoggi case is being reviewed. That’s no different from what Canada’s been saying for weeks.

Khashoggi’s killing last month at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul further strained Riyadh’s already difficult relationship with Canada and renewed public outrage over Ottawa’s controversial $15-billion deal to sell light-armoured vehicles to the kingdom.

CSIS director David Vigneault recently travelled to Turkey to listen to the recording Turkish authorities have of the killing and briefed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as well as other top officials upon his return.

Freeland says Canada is reviewing its arms sales to Saudi Arabia — but her government has come under pressure to cancel the armoured-vehicles deal.

She also says she spoke with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Monday to press for a credible, transparent investigation into what she calls Khashoggi’s “atrocious murder.”

Under intensifying pressure, Riyadh has changed its story about Khashoggi’s death, first saying he walked out of the consulate the day he disappeared but eventually acknowledging he was killed inside the building. Saudi Arabia has also recently acknowledged Turkish evidence that showed the slaying was premeditated.

The killing has prompted international condemnation, including from Trudeau himself, but the prime minister has offered no clue on how the recordings may have affected his thoughts on the matter.

Trudeau has said the penalty for cancelling a $15-billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia would be “in the billions of dollars.”

The Canadian Press