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French press review 13 March 2015

Text by: Clare Sharkey
5 min

The Islamic State armed groups suffers some reversals of fortune. Pope Francis faces a decisive synod. France calls for Schengen border controls to be tightened.

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Libération headlines in its front page "Islamic State - reversal time". They argue that the armed group is now facing losses and its allure is fading. It carries five pages of coverage from its special envoy on the latest developments on the ground.

In its editorial, Libé elaborates on this idea of a weakening insurgency, saying that the Syrian town of Kobane has been recaptured and Tikrit in Iraq is about to be. This, according the the paper, is due to not only the bombardments of Western forces but also - in an ironic twist of history - plumetting oil prices.

Even Turkey is starting to reexamine its ambiguous position towards IS as it has nothing to gain from "allowing crazy fanatics to rampage on its borders", the paper argues, but warns against resting on our laurels - there is a risk that IS could get the upper hand. Or even that President Bashar Al-Assad could win back some of the power he has lost since the beginning of the rebellion.

The paper reminds us that Assad allowed the country to plunge into a civil war in which more than 200,000 people have died and six million have been driven from their homes,  the worst humanitarian tragedy since World War II. Libé concludes that the only option remains bolstering the legitimate rebellion ... and points out that it has been asking for help for four long years.

Le Figaro features the Pope on its front page - saying that his moment of truth has arrived after two years. This is in the run-up to the synod, which is a council meeting of the Catholic chuch, in the autumn. The right-wing daily says that Pope Francis has staked quite a lot on this synod on the family. He has presented himself as a reformer, trying to shake up the stuffy old men of the church establishment and, argues Le Figaro, it will soon be crunch time when the synod tackles some of the stickiest issues in Catholic doctrine - those around divorcees remarrying and the issue of homosexuality.

In its editorial, Le Figaro points out the the synod on the family requires a delicate balancing act for the Pope, with members of the church community in Asia and Africa complaining that the church does not take into account their views and privileges the European conception of the family. The paper argues that he will have to count on the younger churches for support in the coming, potenitally turbulent months.

Le Monde online is leading with France's demands at the European Union to tighten controls at the borders of the Schengen area - that is the area of several EU countires who have agreed to open their borders for internal circulation. French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said in Brussels yeterday that enforcement for the outer perimeter of the zone was applied differently and called for systematic and coordinated controls to bolster the EU's fight against terrorism.

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