Politique Publié le 11 Mars 2016 par Grégory Lassus-Debat

The true story of the Saudi Crown Prince's Légion d'Honneur 11/03/16

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What wouldn't we do to please a future Saudi king? Contrary to the official version, the awarding of the Légion d'Honneur to the Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Nayef was made "at his request", concerned as he is - as a future king of Saudi Arabia - to "strengthen his international stature". Therefore, the matter was handled "very, very urgently (VVU) by the Elysée and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. An exchange of diplomatic emails (reproduced in full below, misspellings included) fell into Causette's handbag. And it's scandalous.

Wednesday, 2 March, at 7.04 am, France's ambassador to Saudi Arabia since 2007, Bertrand Besancenot, wrote to François Hollande's adviser for the Middle East, David Cvach. In this exchange, there is no shortage of fine arguments, liberally sprinkled with cynicism from on high, to get the pill swallowed. Seriously, are we to be taken for a bunch of numbskulls ? Excerpts :

From Ambassador Besancenot : “Of course, the kingdom doesn't get a good press, but I'm afraid that the improvement of its image will take some time...”

Given the treatment it reserves for women, opponents, journalists and bloggers plus the beheadings, torture and whatnot... that’s quite likely! But it is absolutely necessary to please the little prince, so Jérôme Bonnafont, director of the North Africa and Middle East section of Jean-Marc Ayrault's office at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, explains the technique: “[...] it must be discreet with regard to the media without looking like a cover-up, if we don't do it, it will be seen as a snub, and if we get asked, we'll say it's to do with the fight against Daesh and economic and strategic partnership. Just for good measure, let's add a bit about human rights to the language of the discussion.” How convenient, Daesh and Human Rights !

At 12.53 pm, barely six hours later, the matter is wrapped up by the Élysée Palace: David Cvach relays François Hollande's decision to all, first questioned by Jacques Audibert, his diplomatic adviser : “In fact - I suppose it's time to buy MBN's [Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, ed] actions... ". On 4 March, just two days later, the Prince was discreetly decorated. Diplomacy is so easy in realpolitik mode !

Grégory Lassus-Debat 

We asked the adviser to François Hollande as well as France's ambassador to Saudi Arabia if they (seriously) imagined that people would consider it appropriate to honour Saudi Arabia. At the time these lines are published, we are still awaiting their answers...

Below are the emails in full, minus the email addresses :

Wednesday, 2 March at 7.04 am
From: Bertrand Besancenot
[France's ambassador to Saudi Arabia, ed]
To: David Cvach [François Hollande's adviser for the Middle East, ed]
Cc: Laurent Stefanini [Chief of Protocol at the Elysee, ed], [...] Jérôme Bonnafont [director of the North Africa and Middle East section of Jean-Marc Ayrault's office, Foreign Ministry, ed], [...]

Subject: VVU: decoration of the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia

Dear David, I'm sending you the attached copy of the decoration proposal for Prince Mohammed bin Nayef.
I know people are wondering about the idea of decorating the Crown Prince, shortly after the media campaign against Saudi Arabia in France. Of course, the kingdom doesn't get a good press, but I'm afraid that the improvement of its image will take some time...
However, the welcome of Prince Mohamed bin Nayef to Paris is important for several reasons :
- Confirmation of the continuity of our strategic partnership at a sensitive time in the Middle East situation
- Recognition of the outstanding personal role of the prince in the fight against terrorism, which is a shared national priority
- The need to maintain the momentum of strengthening our bilateral cooperation to bolster our civil and military prospects
It is also a gesture to the next King of Saudi Arabia. It is in this context that it seems essential to me respond to his request to receive the Légion d'Honneur, at a time when he wants to strengthen his international stature. It would be a good incentive to get him to play ball with France.

Thank you for your understanding, David.

Warm regards

Bertrand

2 March 7.14 am From: Jérôme Bonnafont
To: David Cvach and Bertrand Besancenot
Cc: Laurent Stefanini, [...]

Subject: Re: VVU: decoration of the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia

NA-ME's view [North Africa - Middle East section of the Foreign Ministry, ed] no reason not to do it: it must be discreet with regard to the media without looking like a cover-up, if we don't do it, it will be seen as a snub and if we get asked, we'll say it's to do with the fight against Daesh and economic and strategic partnership. Just for good measure, let's add a bit about human rights to the language of the discussion.

2 March 7.21 am
From Laurent Stefanini
To: Jerome Bonnafont, David Cvach, Bertrand Besancenot, [...]
Cc: [...]

Subject: Re: VVU: decoration of the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia

No objections from Protocol either. It's a question of political expediency. I understand that the award will be of Grand Officier de la Légion d’Honneur. LS

2 March at 9.43 am
From: David Cvach
To: Laurent Stefanini, Jerome Bonnafont, Bertrand Besancenot, [...]
Cc: [...]

Subject: Re: VVU: decoration of the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia

Bertrand - as you know, but to keep everyone in the loop, Jacques [Audibert, diplomatic advisor to François Hollande, ed] is questioning the PR [President of the Republic, ed]. I'm giving you the verdict. D

2 March at 12.53 pm
From: David Cvach
To: Laurent Stefanini, Jerome Bonnafont, Bertrand Besancenot, [...]
Cc: [...]

Subject: Re: VVU: decoration of the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia

In fact - I suppose it's time to buy MBN's [Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, ed] actions...

Sent from a Samsung mobile

Publié le 11 Mars 2016
Auteur : Grégory Lassus-Debat | Photo : Stéphane de Sakutin - AFP
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