What’s the beef? Sweden moves to defuse major Saudi spat

Sweden is embroiled in an unprecedented diplomatic spat with Saudi Arabia after leftist Foreign Minister Margot Wallstroem (pictured) referred to the oil-rich state as “medieval” and a “dictatorship” in a February speech to parliament. Saudi Arabia, in return, accused Sweden of “flagrant interference” and disrespecting Islam and sharia law. A planned speech by Wallstroem at the Arab League was blocked, business visas for Swedes were halted and its ambassador was recalled.

If you say that Saudi laws are medieval and those are sharia laws then the obvious response is ‘do you have something against Islam?’ And she was not prepared for that.

Paulina Neuding, editor of the right-leaning political magazine NEO

The crisis in relations between Stockholm and Riyadh was cemented earlier this month when Sweden ended an arms agreement with Riyadh, despite warnings from business leaders about the potential impact on exports to the Gulf state, worth about $1.3 billion. Feeling the heat, Sweden’s government last week held talks with business leaders to discuss concerns over trade with Gulf countries. Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf also offered the government his help in defusing tensions.

What we fear is that it may affect the day-to-day business between Swedish companies and distributors and partners… who highly value Islam and their religion.

Cherif Sayed, Middle East manager at the semi-state trade council Business Sweden