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French Press Review 24 February 2018


The UN scrambles to secure a Syrian ceasefire after years of impotence and failures. And the giants of French agro-business count their gains and losses, 24 hours to the opening of the Paris farm show.

The papers are all buzzing about the fresh escalation in the Syrian conflict and a question bogging the minds of stakeholders: whether Russia will vote for a UN Security Council resolution demanding a 30-day ceasefire in the the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta.

Le Parisien reports that 468 civilians including more than 100 children have been killed in the enclave in nearly a week of reported bombardment that has been one of the seven-year conflict's bloodiest episodes.

The Security Council is scheduled to meet at 1700 GMT Saturday to vote on a draft resolution but as the paper reports, the US President Donald Trump's slamming of the actions of the Damascus and its Russian and Iranian supporters as a "humanitarian disgrace" could force the Kremlin to veto the resolution.

Libération's view is that the international community is trapped in a kind of catch 22 situation. The paper holds that the UN Security Council is paying the price of failing to hold the Assad regime in Damascus to account after it crossed the red line of using chemical weapons against opposition strongholds in 2013.

That allowed Iran and Russia to solidify their grip in the region, according to Libé. Where is the geopolitical victory the western allies and their Arab supporters were touting about wonders the left-leaning publication.

What they simply did, it says, was to bow out with dishonour and abstain with the hope of avoiding a bloodier conflict. What the international community has in its hands now is the two problems it tried to avoid.

"We are all farmers" crows Le Figaro, 24 hours to the opening of the Paris International Farm show.  In an editorial the right-wing publication claims that the opening at a time of deep crisis for traditional farmers facing an obligation to modernize farming techniques or perish.

Le Figaro relays a warning by the head of France's biggest farm union that up to 25,000 farmers could go bankrupt, due to rising farming costs, collapsing food prices and a major trade deal with the Mercosur trading bloc which could see the waving of the EU's strict food security norms.

The right wing publication says solutions to the crisis are hard to come by, pointing to a long list of agriculture ministers heckled at the farm show over decades as the clearest evidence of the farmers' continuing anger.

Le Figaro welcomes President Emmanuel Macron's promise to launch grand Cultural Revolution when he met with 700 young farmers at the Elysée Palace on Thursday.

What he plans to do, according to the conservative daily, is to take the bull by the horns and change the rules of the farming business from the calculation of food prices to farm inheritance laws, ahead of EU negotiations on a new Common Agricultural policy in 2020.

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