Saudis Block Swedish FM's Speech at Arab League

Saudis Block Swedish FM's Speech at Arab LeagueSaudis Block Swedish FM's Speech at Arab League

Saudi Arabia blocked a plan for Sweden's foreign minister to address the Arab League on Monday in a protest over criticism of its human rights record, a Swedish foreign ministry spokesman said.

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

Speaking in Cairo, Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom told the TT news agency, “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. It’s a shame that a country has blocked my participation.”

An Arab diplomat confirmed that Riyadh had stopped her making the speech, Reuters reported.

Wallstrom had been invited as an honorary guest to the Arab ministers’ meeting in praise of her government’s decision to recognize Palestine in October.

Sweden has a decade-long arms deal with Riyadh which is due for renewal in May. The deal has come under fire within Wallstrom’s Social Democrats, and is categorically opposed by coalition partners the Green party.

Addressing the UN human rights council in Geneva last week, Wallstrom said she aims to “strengthen gender equality, improve women’s access to resources and increase women’s representation.”