Canada is looking into ways to cancel a giant 2014 weapons deal with Saudi Arabia, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Sunday, as criticism mounts over the kingdom’s role in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the Riyadh-led war in Yemen.
Trudeau had earlier said that it would be “extremely difficult” to withdraw from the contract, signed by the previous conservative administration, “without Canadians paying exorbitant penalties.”
But as evidence emerged of direct Saudi involvement in Khashoggi’s murder on October 2, Canada in late November announced sanctions against 17 Saudi nationals linked to killing.
“The murder of a journalist is absolutely unacceptable and that’s why Canada from the very beginning had been demanding answers and solutions on that,” Trudeau said Sunday in an interview with CTV.
“We inherited actually a (Can)$15 billion contract signed by (former prime minister) Stephen Harper to export light-armored vehicles to Saudi Arabia,” he said.
“We are engaged with the export permits to try and see if there is a way of no longer exporting these vehicles to Saudi Arabia,” he added.
The penalty for breaking the contract could exceed Can$1 billion, Trudeau said in an interview with CBC Radio in October.
Trudeau has been criticized by political opponents and Human Rights activists for failing to cancel the contract.
The deal, worth US$11.5 billion, was the largest arms deal in Canadian history. Canada inked the deal in 2014 to supply 928 LAV 6 armored personnel carriers to Saudi Arabia.
But the contract was scaled back earlier this year, amid protests, to 742, dropping heavy assault versions equipped with cannons that activists and opposition politicians warned could be used against civilians and to help Riyadh wage war in Yemen.