France has sparked widespread condemnation after discreetly awarding Saudi Arabia’s crown prince with the country’s highest honor just months after publicly condemning the kingdom for human rights violations.
French President Francois Hollande awarded Prince Mohammed bin Nayef the Legion of Honor on Friday during the crown prince’s visit to Elysee Palace, an event which did not receive media coverage.
Paris did not confirm the event until Sunday, when officials stated that it was “common protocol” to bestow the honor on visiting dignitaries.
On the other hand, Saudi Arabia’s state-run SPA claimed that Nayef was given the honor for his “great efforts in the region and world for combating extremism and terrorism.”
The award is regarded as one of the world’s highest modern orders of merit and was founded by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802. The last recipients of the award were a group of WWII veterans.
In January, Saudi Arabia executed Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr along 46 other people in defiance of international calls for the release of the prominent Shia cleric and other jailed political dissidents in the kingdom.
The following day, the French foreign ministry released a statement denouncing the executions as deeply deplorable.
On Sunday, Social media users vented their anger over awarding the significant medal to Riyadh.
Known for its close relations with Saudi Arabia, France has moved over the past years to deepen cooperation with Riyadh, with reports in June 2015 suggesting that the two countries sealed military deals worth up to $12 billion for the delivery of modern weaponry to the Arab kingdom.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls also signed 10 billion euros worth of contracts, mainly in the fields of transport, energy and aerospace, in his trip to Riyadh last year.
By Press TV