OTTAWA—Canada has joined its allies in pressing Saudi Arabia for answers in the disappearance and suspected murder of a prominent journalist, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says.
Freeland spoke with her counterparts in Great Britain, the United States and Germany as international outrage mounts over the apparent murder of Jamal Khashoggi, who was a critic of the Saudi regime.
Khashoggi went missing after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul earlier this month. Turkish investigators now suspect that Khashoggi was interrogated and killed inside the building by a Saudi team sent especially to silence the journalist.
Speaking to reporters Monday, Freeland said the federal government reaffirms its commitment to freedom of expression and protection of the media and was “very troubled” by Khashoggi’s disappearance.
“Canada calls for a thorough, credible and transparent investigation into the serious allegations about Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance,” said Freeland, who spoke with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir earlier in the day.
“We look forward to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia providing complete and detailed information. Those bearing responsibility for the disappearance of Mr. Khashoggi must be held to account,” Freeland said.
She said that Canada was working in “close collaboration” with allies on the case to establish exactly what happened.
“It’s important for the international community to be clear that those facts need to be established in a clear and transparent manner. This is an important issue,” Freeland said.
Relations between Canada and Saudi Arabia deteriorated sharply in August after Ottawa took to social media to air criticism of the kingdom’s human rights record and detention of activists. Riyadh reacted with reprisals that included ending flights between the two countries and suspending some commercial activities, such as purchases of wheat and barley.
But Freeland said Monday that this most recent development has not prompted Ottawa to rethink the controversial sale of armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia, a deal worth $15 million that was approved by the previous Conservative government.
“When it comes to existing contracts, our government believes strongly that Canada’s word has to matter,” Freeland said.
“We are sticking by agreements that were made before we entered into government,” she said.
Bruce Campion-Smith is an Ottawa-based reporter covering national politics. Follow him on Twitter: @yowflier