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French press review 22 October 2015


What did Vladimir Putin and Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad talk about yesterday in Moscow? Happy birthday to Raymonde Nédelec, 100 years old today, the sole survivor of the first group of women MPs to take their seats in the French National Assembly seven decades ago. And France is bigger than it used to be!


Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was in Moscow yesterday, his first trip anywhere since war broke out in his country four years ago.

He was in the Russian capital to make sure that his main ally, Vladimir Putin, is still keen to supply tanks, planes, pilots and other military necessities to Syrian troops in their fight to (a) protect the world from islamic terrorism and (b) beat the living crap out of anyone who doesn't appreciate the advantages of being ruled, barrel-bombed and poison gased by Bashar and his boys.

Women's rights in France - given or taken?

Vladimir and Bashar are not exactly bosom buddies, having met precisely three times, the most recent encounter dating from 2006.

Yesterday's meeting was at the request of the Kremlin, and Le Monde is at a loss to know what exactly the point was. Russian air strikes in Syria are becoming each day more numerous, there's a global deal with the pilots of the international coalition that should prevent an international incident even if it can't guarantee that there won't be accidents and both the Russian and Syrian leaders spoke in favour of a political settlement to the conflict. That's a fairly thin return for hauling a man in the midst of saving the world and his own skin all the way to Moscow.

So what did the two boys say when they weren't smiling, shaking hands and gurgling platitudes about the fight against terrorism?

François Hollande, the French president, is said by Le Monde to believe that Putin was trying to convince Assad to start negotiations as quickly as possible and then to get his ass out of town. A solution which Putin has firmly opposed up to now.

Perhaps we'll find out more when US Secretary of State John Kerry meets his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in Vienna tomorrow.

Left-leaning Libération thinks the Moscow meeting was more stage management in Putin's effort to put Russia at the centre of international diplomacy. The message is simple: the solution to the Syrian crisis is in the hands of the Kremlin.

Libé points to the recent delivery of Russian anti-aircraft missiles to the Syrian military as significant: Islamic State does not have any air force; the international coalition has nothing else. Syrian airspace is now, effectively, under Russian control.

Separately, Libération notes that Russian air strikes against rebels opposed to the Damascus regime risk pushing the anti-Assad forces into a military alliance with the holy warriors of Islamic State.

None of which suggests an early end to the conflict, nor to the streams of refugees fleeing the fighting in the direction of a divided European Union.

We wish Raymonde Nédelec a very happy birthday. She is 100 years old this very day. Seventy years ago, Raymonde was one of the 33 French women MPs to enter the National Assembly, the first women deputies in the history of the republic. Raymonde is the only one still alive.

Le Monde calculates that she and her sister deputies represented less than six per cent of the house, a figure which has improved to 26 per cent today.

Despite their diverse political backgrounds, the 33 women deputies acted together to improve the lives of their sisters outside the halls of power, notably demaning, in 1947, "professional equality and identical pay for men and women".

Clearly, as on the question of parity, progress remains to be made.

Le Figaro proudly notes that France has literally grown, by 580,000 square kilometres, thanks to a United Nations convention which gives Paris the rights to the sea floor off its Caribbean and South American departments.

Sadly, the conservative paper's editorial is headlined "The abandoned nation," a bitter reflection on a country overwhelmed by political powerlessness. Le Figaro says the weakness of the current government in the face of the migrant crisis in the Calais "jungle" and the timid reaction to recent violence in the eastern town of Moirans is in sharp contrast with the dogmatic official attitude on ideological questions like homosexual marriage.

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