EU laments Saudi blocking of Swedish minister's speech

EU laments Saudi blocking of Swedish minister's speech

The European Union (EU) has regretted a decision by Saudi Arabia to block the speech of Sweden’s foreign minister at an Arab League meeting. “We regret that the Swedish foreign minister was not able to deliver her speech,” European Commission spokeswoman, Maja Kocijancic, said Tuesday.

Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström (pictured below) said Monday that her speech to the Arab League meeting in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, was cancelled allegedly due to her criticism of the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia, the most influential country in the Arab League.
Kocijancic said the EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, is planning to speak to Wallström and the Arab League Secretary General Nabil el-Arabi in order “to understand this situation.”

The Arab League had invited the Swedish official to give an address to the ministerial meeting of the organization in praise of Stockholm’s official decision to recognize Palestine as an independent state in October 2014.

The Swedish Foreign Ministry published the content of Wallström’s speech Tuesday, which showed the minister had neither criticized Saudi Arabia nor highlighted her alleged feminist foreign policy agenda. The speech only included some comments on women’s and human rights.

Wallström on Monday described as a “shame” her blocking from the meeting.

“The explanation we have been given is that Sweden has highlighted the situation for democracy and human rights and that is why they do not want me to speak,” she said.

A source in the Arab League, whose name was not mentioned in the report, confirmed that it was Riyadh that wanted the speech cancelled.

In January, Wallström criticized the Saudi kingdom for its harsh treatment of dissent and lashed out at a Saudi court for sentencing blogger Raif Badawi to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison just for criticizing Wahhabism.

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