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French press review 30 July 2014

Text by: Anna Polonyi
5 min

France gives Iraqi Christians a mixed welcome, while the papers hail EU sanctions on Russia and wonder whether France's sands will be sold.

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Le Figaro hails France's announcement that it will be providing asylum to Christians fleeing persecution in Iraq.

The conservative daily traces this stance back to the renaissance king Francis I who was a patron of churches further east. But that's where the comparison between French President François Hollande and royalty ends.

Isn't the move playing right into djihadists' hand, the paper wonders.

A massive exodus of Christians is exactly what they want. No mass was held in northern Mosul last Sunday for the first time in 1,800 years. Le Figaro says this is unacceptable and it only makes sense to take in Christian refugees as long as the world players are also working to protect them in their homes.

La Croix also picks up on the paradox. Three French bishops are currently traveling through northern Iraq to express solidarity with Christians and the Catholic daily says they are urging people stay put as long as they can. Meanwhile, the government is sending a different signal - abandon ship and seek shelter here.

Le Monde is dubious. Although France has announced intentions to help Iraqi Christians, specific plans are yet to be drafted. NGOs in France and on the ground are sceptical and many see this as just another media move - an attempt to mete out healthy humanistic outrage equally across the board. A little Gaza here, a little Iraq there.

Dossier: Gaza 2009

Speaking of outrage, L'Humanité's editorial wonders where France's voice has gone since the war broke out in Gaza. Faced with the latest wave of deadly bombings, L'Huma asks, what is France doing? It points to Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff who was not afraid to call a spade a spade, saying Israel is staging a full-blown massacre in Gaza.

Compare this with France's handling of the crisis, watered down with diplomatic jargon that effectively sanctions Israel's actions. L'Huma thinks France still has a key role to play in the Middle East and it's time to man up.

Le Monde looks to the Far East for an example for how Islam and democracy are not mutually exclusive. In case readers were worried after seeing the so-called Arab Spring turn into bloody civil unrest, the paper brings us the example of Indonesia.

The governor of Jakarta was elected head of state last week. Le Monde says this marks a new stage in the country's history, as he's not part of the traditional ruling elite that has controled Indonesia since free elections over the last decade. He's a bit of an underdog and, though he doesn't have a full majority in parliament, Le Monde says he's counting on his charisma to steer the house.

Left-wing Libération asks what to do with Vladimir Putin. *

The Russian leader has become a bit of a force of nature. Will a new batch of sanctions against Russia have any effect on him? Putin continues to destabilise Europe, taking the EU by surprise. According to Libé, Europeans believed the Old World was spared from violence for ever more since World War II. The paper says there's no point responding to force with more force and instead hopes countries will muster as much realpolitik leverage as they possibly can to show Russia the price of isolation.

Mediterranean countries are selling off their beaches. La Croix reports that in Italy and Greece it's increasingly hard to put down your beach towel for free. Ecologists are unhappy about stretches of the coast being sold off to the tourism industry. In the Côte d'Azur, despite strong local leadership, private interests may begin to nibble away at the shore.

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