Fran­cois Hol­lande ‘qui­etly’ awards France’s high­est hon­our to vis­it­ing Saudi Crown Prince

The Star (St. Lucia) - - INTERNATIONAL - By Adam With­nall --­de­pen­

France has been ac­cused of de­valu­ing its high­est na­tional hon­our af­ter the Le­gion of Hon­our was qui­etly awarded to the Crown Prince of Saudi Ara­bia on a visit to Paris. The French govern­ment was among the most vo­cal out­side the Middle East in its con­dem­na­tion of Saudi mass ex­e­cu­tions ear­lier this year, call­ing the king­dom’s killing of 47 peo­ple “deeply de­plorable”. Yet al­most two months to the day af­ter that state­ment was is­sued, Pres­i­dent François Hol­lande awarded his na­tion’s most pres­ti­gious award to the heir to the Saudi throne, Prince Mo­hammed bin Naif.

The Crown Prince’s visit to the El­y­see Palace ac­tu­ally took place on Fri­day 4 March, the same day as Mr Hol­lande held talks with An­gela Merkel about how to cope with the refugee cri­sis.

Merkel’s trip fea­tured in a num­ber of videos and pho­tos posted on­line by the El­y­see so­cial me­dia team, while any ref­er­ence or ev­i­dence of the Saudi del­e­ga­tion was con­spic­u­ously ab­sent.

That the Prince even re­ceived the award was only con­firmed by Hol­lande’s en­tourage Sun­day af­ter­noon. Of­fi­cials sought to play it down, telling Le Monde it was “com­mon pro­to­col” to is­sue vis­it­ing dig­ni­taries with the hon­our.

But while in France the dec­o­ra­tion was done, as me­dia out­lets put it, “with dis­cre­tion”, the govern­ment-owned Saudi news agency SPA hailed the hon­our as recog­ni­tion for the prince’s “great ef­forts in the re­gion and world for com­bat­ing ex­trem­ism and ter­ror­ism”.

The Le­gion of Hon­our was founded by Napoleon in 1802, and is re­garded as among the first and most pres­ti­gious mod­ern or­ders of merit in the world.

In both France and the UK, there was anger Sun­day night at the de­ci­sion to award the sym­bol­i­cally sig­nif­i­cant medal to the deputy leader of a coun­try which has ex­e­cuted 70 peo­ple since the start of the year. Twit­ter user Car­men Re­nieri called it a “day of shame for France”, while Jane Grover wrote: “the dec­o­ra­tion makes the le­gion d’hon­neur worth­less”.

Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande hands Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Naif the Le­gion d’Hon­neur, France’s high­est hon­our, at a low-key cer­e­mony in Paris on 4 March 2016 Pres­i­dence de la Republique

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