Saudi Arabia blocks Swedish speech

4:47 min

Foreign Minister Margot Wallström’s speech to the Arab League in Cairo has been cancelled on the request of Saudi Arabia, Swedish Radio News reports.

The Arab League is meeting in Egypt’s capital of Cairo, and had extended an unusual invitation to Wallström to deliver a speech Monday, however, during a dinner the evening prior, she found out that Saudi Arabia did not want her to participate. 

Sweden's criticism of human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia is what caused the country to block her speech, according to what Wallström told news agency TT. The minister, from the Social Democrat Party, says she had not even planned to speak about Saudi Arabia in her speech.

"It's a shame that a country blocked my participation," Wallström told TT.

There has been speculation over whether Saudi Arabia's motive could be a consequence of the debate in Sweden over whether or not to renew a weapons deal between the two countries, and the news that Wallström was uninvited from giving her speech has rekindled the debate. 

The chair of the youth wing of the Social Democrats told TT that she believes Sweden should end the deal, as did the foreign policy spokesperson of the opposition Liberals. Caroline Szyber of the opposition Christian Democrats went one step further, telling Swedish Radio she believed the agreement, which is set to be renewed on 15 May, should be broken by the end of the week.

Karin Enström, the foreign policy spokesperson for the opposition conservative Moderates, felt the government was responsible, telling TT that it's a serious thing if Sweden's voice is stopped or weakened, and that there is a risk that Sweden would burn relationships to countries in the region.