August 23, 2018 / 3:29 PM / a year ago

U.S. is committed to Canada, Saudi Arabia ties amid spat - State Department

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo waves to the media before his meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry at the State Department in Washington, U.S., August 8, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland that the United States was committed to its close partnerships with both Canada and Saudi Arabia, his spokeswoman said on Thursday amid a diplomatic spat between the two U.S. allies.

Pompeo was the highest-level U.S. official to weigh in publicly on the dispute between Ottawa and Riyadh, which have clashed over the arrest of activists in Saudi Arabia over the past month. The dispute started when Canada called for civil society activists to be freed from jail.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said earlier this month that Washington was urging the two countries to resolve the dispute with diplomacy and had raised the issue with the Saudis.

Canada has said it would continue to press Saudi Arabia on human rights, and Saudi Arabia has frozen new trade with Canada, expelled Ottawa’s ambassador and recalled its own ambassador.

U.S. President Donald Trump publicly criticized Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in June, although the two countries have traditionally been close allies. Trump has also sought tighter ties with Saudi Arabia.

Reporting by Makini Brice; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Dan Grebler

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