Saudi Arabia has blocked a speech by Sweden's Foreign Minister in protest against criticism of human rights abuses in the kingdom, during a meeting of the Arab League at its headquarters in Cairo on 9 March.
Margot Wallstrom had been invited to give a speech to a meeting of Arab League foreign ministers to build cooperation among countries and promote human rights, Reuters reported.
"Last night, we were told that Saudi Arabia had blocked Margot's participation. The only explanation we've got is that this is because of the statements the Swedish government has made regarding human rights in Saudi Arabia," Wallstrom's press spokesman Erik Boman said.
According to news agency Sputnik, Wallstrom told Sveriges Radio: "I had been looking forward to speak. I came well prepared at the invitation of the Arab League. I think, of course, that this has put the Arab League in a very difficult situation because it means that a country can block an event of this kind."
Saudi Arabia has been widely criticised by several Western countries for its human rights abuse record. The kingdom has sparked worldwide outrage after it decided to sentence blogger Raif Badawi to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison for advocating free speech on his Saudi Arabian Liberals blog.
Badawi was lashed 50 times in January 2015 while right groups and thousands of people in the world staged marches protesting against the punishment. He was due to be lashed 50 times a week for 20 weeks. However, the second round of lashes has yet to take place as authorities said Badawi is currently not physically fit to sustain the corporal punishment. Meanwhile, reports emerged that the death sentence originally given to Badawi for apostasy charges might be resumed.
In January, Wallstrom took to Twitter to criticise Badawi's flogging, calling the sentence a "cruel attempt to silence modern forms of expression."
Badawi is the latest example of how the kingdom limits freedom of speech. In April 2014, the country introduced a new law expanding the concept of terrorism. Critics say the new legislation - which uses a broad definition of "terrorism" to include any act intended to insult the reputation of the state, harm public order or destabilise the security of society - is a threat to freedom of speech and thought in the kingdom.
The country is also renowned for its limitation of the rights of Saudi women, who are banned from driving. Female Saudis are also forced to cover up in public, and they must be accompanied by a male guardian and can only work in specific shops.