Prime Minister Stephen Harper has come under fire from ex-Canadian premier Jean Chrétien for failing to rein in the ongoing diplomatic feud between Ottawa and the UAE.
Jean Chrétien, who was prime minister of Canada from November 1993 to December 2003, said a quick solution was needed to defuse the row in light of the UAE’s strategic importance.
"I think this problem has not been well managed," Chrétien told Arabian Business on the sideline of a conference in Riyadh.
“I hope they will resolve the difficulty because we need good relations with this part of the world.”
Relations between the oil-rich UAE and Canada have deteriorated rapidly since November, when Canada’s transport agency refused to give Gulf carriers Etihad and Emirates fresh landing rights.
The UAE had been requesting new rights for six years.
The Arab country retaliated with the closure of Camp Mirage, a secret military base located outside Dubai and used to supply Canadian troops in Afghanistan.
The political feud took a new turn in December, when the UAE Embassy announced Canadian citizens would no longer receive free visas. Instead, tourists must now pay up to $1,000 Canadian dollars for visas.
Earlier this month, Canada’s opposition foreign affairs spokesman Bob Rae said Ottawa had been guilty of ‘diplomatic bumbling’ and had put a $2bn bilateral trade relationship at risk.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Stephen Harper accused the UAE of leveraging the War on Terror to push its own domestic aviation interests.
“That’s just not how you treat allies, and I think tells us you better pick your friends pretty carefully in the future,” Harper said, in reference to the closure of Camp Mirage.
Chrétien said Canada had always maintained good relations with its Gulf allies.
“I never had any problems when I was prime minister with the countries here. I never had, in the ten years I was there, had that type of problem without finding a solution,” he said.