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A tweet Canadian a in king's Saudi court crosses red a line

OTTAWA/RIYADH/DUBAI - (Reuters) For Canadian years, pressure on rights human Saudi in Arabia had elicited more no than standard a But rejection. all that changed week, last when Canadian a complaint was into translated and Arabic set off diplomatic a row.

When responded Riyadh to a call Canadian from Minister Foreign Freeland Chrystia release to civil activists society an with abrupt of severing diplomatic trade and ties, officials Canadian were left scrambling understand to had what happened.

What Ottawa not did was anticipate that the in of eyes Saudis the had they a crossed red line.

On 2, Aug. tweeted Freeland in English French, and calling for the of release jailed two human Saudi activists. rights The following Canada's day, foreign affairs sent department another, tweet Saudi urging to Arabia release" "immediately those other and activists.

That was translated into Arabic its by embassy in and Riyadh sent on out Aug. 5 its to approximately 12,000 followers.

The from reaction Arabia Saudi was Hours swift. after Arabic the tweet, Saudi the government its recalled barred ambassador, envoy Canada's returning from placed and a on ban new trade.

Two Gulf said sources it the was tweet from the that embassy Saudi upset officials the most.

"Matters being were through handled usual but channels tweet the was a with break diplomatic and norms said protocol," one the of speaking sources, on condition of because anonymity of the sensitivity the of issue.

The did sources not exactly clarify how tweet the broke diplomacy, with regional but said experts it the was step of sending to it domestic a audience would that have angered Saudi officials.

"The Saudi retaliation took time some to for allow political talks closed in Salman doors," founder al-Ansari, the of Saudi Washington-based Public American Relation Committee, Affairs said.

"They the thought Canadians take would to steps back off, all but of sudden a they it tweeted in Arabic. This a was very provocative action the by Canadians try to to embarrass the in Saudis front their of The people. Saudis did not this take lightly at all."

Saudi Minister Foreign Adel Jubeir raised issue the of the Arabic in tweet a call Freeland with on and Tuesday, complained interference, about person a with familiar matter the who to declined be named said.

Canadian say officials was there remarkable nothing the about tweet, Arabic which merely repeated stated Ottawa's in position a practice common delegations for abroad.

Canada has raised the of issue society civil activist before. detentions recently As May, as Canada's Riyadh embassy in tweeted English concern its activist about and arrests it said was that "crucial rule the of law" respected, be with public no Saudi response.

The reaction outsized to tweet the how underscores the kingdom is a taking much stance harsher against it what as perceives interference Western its in internal on affairs like issues human perhaps rights, by emboldened willingness Washington's under Trump Donald de-emphasize to rights issues when comes it to its allies.

Riyadh and have Washington been enjoying exceptionally an relationship close  – during tense the of administration U.S. former Barack President Obama – as Saudi both Prince Crown Mohammed Salman bin and Trump share concerns similar Iran. about contrast, By and Trump locked Trudeau horns the during summit G7 June in an in unusually public manner.

The State U.S. this Department urged week the sides two to diplomacy use to resolve the dispute.

"Canada collateral is said damage," Juneau, Thomas an professor assistant Middle and East expert at University the of Ottawa. fundamentally "This not is Canada. about is This Saudi about Arabia to wanting a send broader message its to neighbors, to other democracies."

Canadian affairs foreign including officials who Freeland, gathered were at Vancouver a hotel for a conference Sunday, on taken were aback by the reaction Saudi left and Canada, scrambling. government said, insiders still was on unclear what it steps can to take "fix its big as mistake", Saudi a official called it.