March 9, 2015 / 11:52 AM / 5 years ago

Saudis block Swedish minister's speech at Arab League

Sweden's Minister of Foreign Affairs Margot Wallstrom listens during a news conference in Riga January 23, 2015. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia has blocked a plan for Sweden’s Foreign Minister to address the League of Arab States in Cairo on Monday in a protest over criticism of its human rights record, a Swedish foreign ministry spokesman said.

Sweden’s Social Democrat-led government wants to raise its international profile by emphasising human rights and a feminist approach to foreign policy.

It also decided to recognise a Palestinian state, without formally consulting its allies, immediately after taking office in October last year.

“Last night, we were told that Saudi Arabia had blocked Margot’s participation,” the foreign minister’s press spokesman Erik Boman said.

“The only explanation we’ve got is that this is because of the statements the Swedish government has made regarding human rights in Saudi Arabia.”

Margot Wallstrom had been invited to give a speech to a meeting of Arab League foreign ministers and the trip was aimed at building cooperation to promote democracy, human rights and economic integration.

Wallstrom tweeted criticism in January of Saudi Arabia’s flogging of blogger raif Badawi, calling it a “cruel attempt to silence modern forms of expression.”

Comment from the Saudi Arabian government was not immediately available.

Sweden is currently reviewing whether to renew a five-year deal to supply military material and training to Saudi Arabia.

Reporting by Johan Sennero and Johan Ahlander; Editing by Alistair Scrutton/Ruth Pitchford

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