President Francois Hollande has awarded the Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest honour, to visiting Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Nayef, the president’s office confirmed on Sunday.
The office had released no statement on the visit that took place Friday, but it was reported by the Saudi news agency SPA, which said Nayef was cited for his “efforts in the fight against terrorism and extremism”.
A Hollande aide said Nayef, who is the Saudi interior minister, received the honour as a “foreign individual, a common protocol practice,” noting that Hollande himself received Saudi Arabia’s top honour during one of his visits there.
Bilateral ties are strong, sealed by major arms deals as well as Riyadh’s participation in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) group.
News of the bestowal of the Legion d’Honneur on Nayef sparked harsh criticism on social media from opponents to the death penalty, many tweeting using the hashtag “#honte” (#shame).