Saudi Arabia halts business visas for Swedish businessmen (dpa German Press Agency)

Stockholm (dpa) – Saudi Arabia on Thursday announced it would not issue visas for Swedish nationals planning business trips to the kingdom, which last week pulled its ambassador to Stockholm to protest Swedish criticism of its human rights record.
“We have been informed of this via diplomatic channels,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Johan Tegel told dpa.
Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador to protest Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom’s criticism of human rights violations in the kingdom.
The Swedish government has said it would not renew a 10-year military cooperation agreement with the conservative monarchy.
Wallstrom and Enterprise Minister Mikael Damberg were on Thursday scheduled to meet with representatives of leading export firms, who have expressed concern over the strained ties with Saudi Arabia.
Telecommunications equipment maker Ericsson was one of the firms scheduled to attend.
“It is essential that relations can be normalized and that a constructive dialogue be re-established,” Ericsson spokesman Ola Rembe said in an emailed statement.
Statistics Sweden said exports last year to Saudi Arabia were worth 11.2 billion kronor (1.3 billion dollars), making it Sweden’s 18th largest export market.
The United Arab Emirates on Wednesday also recalled its ambassador to Sweden.
Saudi Arabia last week blocked Wallstrom from giving a speech at a meeting of the Arab League in Cairo after she criticized the country’s treatment of jailed blogger Raif Badawi, who was sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail for allegedly insulting Islam.
Wallstrom had been invited as a guest of honour to Cairo after the new Swedish government in October recognized the state of Palestine.
The Arab League later issued a statement criticizing Sweden for its stance on Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.