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French press review 29 September 2015


Pope Francis has a "heart talk" with journalists covering his Americas tour, and Vladimir Putin's power play in Syria wrong-foots French President François Hollande again.


Vladimir Putin’s plan for an expanded military alliance to fight the Islamic State armed group in Syria laid out at the United Nations on Monday attracts a flurry of comments in this morning’s papers.

Le Figaro reports that US President Barack Obama and his French counterpart François Hollande both expressed willingness to work with Russia, but the fate of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad remains a major point of discord.

Some European powers are reportedly softening their stance, signalling Assad could stay on in an interim role, but France's President François Hollande stuck close to Obama's line about working with Russia and Iran who want to be part of the solution, "while explaining to them that the route to a solution does not go through Basher al-Assad."

L’Humanité draws a demarcation line between Barack Obama appearing open to “some courses of action” and Hollande’s rejection of any role for the Assad regime in Syria’s future.

The Communist party newspaper says Hollande remains entangled in regional relations, notably with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar all positioning themselves to play a role in the Middle East conflict, which they never had.

L’Humanité asked French political science and international relations professor Bertrand Badie what he makes of the French position. He says Paris lacks a strong partnership with other permanent members of the UN Security Council, weakening France’s posture on the global stage.

On Syria, Hollande is one battle behind, notes the conservative Le Figaro.

Libération on its part has no doubt whatsoever in its mind that it is Putin calling the shots in Syria, having brought Assad back to the centre of play. The left-leaning newspaper says he took advantage of the confusion prevailing in the West to prop up ally Assad while rendering himself indispensable.

Le Figaro publishes excerpts of heart-to-heart exchanges the Pope had with journalists covering his 10-day tour of Cuba and the United States. The issues range from the Syrian crisis, migrants and marriage.

Francis reportedly spoke freely about his objection to bombing campaigns which only cause death and bloodshed, about the walls constructed to keep refugees out which will not resolve the crisis and will end up coming down, the zero tolerance of paedophile priests in the Catholic Church, and his dream to visit the great nation of China some day.

Francis also told journalists why he doesn’t consider himself a star, despite the Francis frenzy that characterised his visit. “I don’t know how successful I was during the trip,” he said. The pontiff goes on to say: "I feel scared of myself and quite bothered that I’m weak in the sense of being powerful, a secondary and passing thing you may have today and not tomorrow."

The sole title the Pope said he is "proud to carry" is “servant of God’s servants”, which as he explains, "is different from being a star who of course is nice to watch".

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