Saudi Arabia stops business visas to Swedes in diplomatic row

Reuters News
|
Posted: Mar 19, 2015 10:08 AM

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia has refused to issue any business visas to Swedes, Stockholm's Foreign Ministry said on Thursday, in the latest move in a diplomatic row over Swedish criticism of Riyadh's human rights record.

Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador to Stockholm earlier this month, prompting Sweden to cancel a long-standing defense cooperation agreement with Saudi Arabia. A few days earlier, Riyadh canceled a speech due to be given to the League of Arab States by Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom.

"We have received information that Saudi Arabia has stopped giving business visa to Swedish citizens," Wallstrom's spokesman Erik Boman said. The Swedish government was given no specific reason for the move and hoped the row would end soon, he said.

After Riyadh recalled its ambassador, Boman said the reason given was Sweden's criticism of its record on human rights and democracy

In January, Wallstrom tweeted criticism of Saudi Arabia's flogging of human rights activist blogger Raif Badawi, calling it a "cruel attempt to silence modern forms of expression".

She has also criticized the treatment of women in Saudi Arabia, where they cannot drive cars and need permission from a male guardian for many decisions.

(Reporting by Johan Sennero; Editing by Tom Heneghan)