Saudi Arabia decides to restore ambassador to Sweden: Al Arabiya TV

CAIRO/STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia has decided to send its envoy back to Sweden, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television said on Friday, in a move that will ease a diplomatic row over the Arab country’s human rights record.

Sweden’s foreign ministry could not confirm the news but said a Swedish envoy to Saudi Arabia had assured the Saudi King on Friday that recent comments from Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom were not meant to insult Saudi Arabia or Islam.

“We hope to soon see the Saudi ambassador back in Stockholm and a return to normal relations between our countries”, Wallstrom said in a statement.

Saudi Arabia withdrew its envoy earlier this month over Swedish criticism of the monarchy’s treatment of women and dissidents.

In January, Wallstrom tweeted criticism of Saudi Arabia’s flogging of human rights activist blogger Raif Badawi, calling it a “cruel attempt to silence modern forms of expression”.

She has also criticized policies affecting women, who cannot drive cars and need permission from a male guardian for many decisions.

Riyadh then canceled a speech Wallstrom had been due to give to the League of Arab States, and Stockholm later ended a long-standing defense cooperation agreement with Saudi Arabia.

Reporting by Ahmed Tolba and Johan Ahlander, Writing by Noah Browning; Editing by Kevin Liffey, Ruth Pitchford and Ken Wills