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Anger as French Riviera beach closed for Saudi King

Story highlights

  • Local authorities in Vallauris say entourage of 500 expected with Saudi royal family
  • Beach is popular destination for local fishermen

That’s the situation at Vallauris, between Cannes and Antibes on France’s Mediterranean coast, where a stretch of sand is being sealed off, reportedly to accommodate Saudi Arabia’s King Salman.

Inevitably in a destination that is already home to many exclusive resorts and marinas, such an attempt to restrict access to a beach popular with local fishermen has been met by local anger.

Vallauris town councilor Jean Noel Falcou, the head of a local environmental protection association has denounced the installation of a gate on a tunnel beneath a railway that provides the only public access to the beach, which lies below a villa owned by the King.

“Not only were they installing a gate on public property, but also pouring cement on the beach to install an elevator linking the house and the beach,” he told local broadcaster RMC.

French authorities say the Saudi King’s visit is not confirmed, but local officials say members of a royal family entourage are already on site preparing for the arrival of the monarch and a retinue of 500 people.

Francois-Xavier Lauch, vice prefect of the surrounding Alpes Maritimes region, told CNN that the beach’s closure was a temporary security measure.

Lauch said he was aware of complaints but insisted the procedure was appropriate because recent attacks have put France on high terror alert and the Saudi King could be considered a potential target.

He said that visiting Saudis were crucial to the region’s tourism, but any other visiting head of state would attract the same level of security.

No Saudi officials were available for comment due to a public holiday, but authorities rarely comment on the King’s personal travel.

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