Cannes (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Decision by French authorities to restrict access to a beach near a villa owned by Saudi King Salman and work at the site have generated anger on the French Riviera.
The Saudi monarch is expected to arrive shortly on a family vacation. The decision by the Grasse Prefecture to restrict access to "La Mirandole" beach at Golfe-Juan, in the town of Vallauris, where the king’s villa (pictured) is located, has not been welcomed.
Nestled in the rocks between the coastal railway and the translucent waters of the Mediterranean, the royal family's immense villa stretches across a kilometre of Riviera coastline. During the royal’s stay, coastguards will stop anyone coming within 300 metres of the villa by sea.
"Looking after their security is fine, but they should at least let us go for a swim," said a disgruntled local.
When Saudi security provide the date of the “king’s arrival, with a 24 hours notice, the beach will be off limits to everyone,” said Grasse Sub-Prefect Philippe Castanet.
Last week, workers hired by the Saudis started building a fence to close off access to the beach, but were ordered to stop.
Conversely, and despite the lack of a permit, local authorities have allowed work on an elevator to continue on condition that it be dismantled when the family vacation ends.
Work is also underway in the villa. New, bulletproof glass is going in, as well as new shrubs and flowers.
According to French media, King Salman is coming with an entourage of 400 people, including a medical team.
Locals wonder what impact a crowd of wealthy people will have on the local economy.
"Whether it's him or another billionaire, they always have priority over ordinary people,” said a local woman. Still, “I heard they might even fix the roads."
Saudi Arabia has strong economic interests in France. On 25 June, the two countries signed several deals worth US$ 12 billion, including the purchase by Saudi Arabia of 23 Airbus H145 helicopters, at a cost of US$ 500 million.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius also announced that Saudi Arabia is preparing feasibility studies for the construction of two nuclear reactors with French cooperation.