Saudi ambassador to return to Stockholm

Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Sweden will soon return to Stockholm after a diplomatic spat, Swedish officials said Saturday. But an envoy sent to Riyadh stopped short of offering the Saudis an apology.

Saudi ambassador to return to Stockholm
Photo: TT

The report of the imminent return of the Saudi ambassador, who was recalled more than two weeks ago, indicates tensions between Sweden and Saudi had calmed somewhat.

"I'm very pleased that we can resume our normal diplomatic ties," Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström told reporters. 

The announcement followed a visit to Riyadh to Swedish Government envoy Björn van Sydow on Friday, where he met with Saudi Arabia's kind Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud. The Swedish news agency TT said the envoy relayed messages from Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf and Prime Minister Stefan Löfven during the meeting. 

Ambassador Ibrahim bin Saad al-Ibrahim was recalled in mid-March in the wake of Foreign Minister Margot Wallström’s remarks about Saudi Arabia. She criticised the situation around women’s rights in the conservative kingdom and the absolute power held by the royal household. Wallström had also called the punishment inflicted on regime-critical blogger Raif Badawi – 10 years in jail and 1,000 lashes – as “medieval”. 

Saudi laws are based on sharia, a moral and religious code. 

Around the same time, Sweden cancelled a long-standing military cooperation deal between the two countries, which prompted the Saudi Arabia to prevent Wallström from making a speech on human rights to the Arab League. Saudi Arabia also froze Swedish business visas to the Gulf kingdom and the UAE recalled its own ambassador to Stockholm. 

But Wallström throughout the row has maintained she has the support of the Swedish people in expressing her opinion. "I do not regret my choice of words," she told the daily Expressen on Saturday.  

The envoy, von Sydow, said he stopped short of issuing an apology to the Saudi king.

"I said we were very sorry if there were feelings of misunderstanding about what was said from the Swedish side, and said that we want to have a dialogue," he said.