United Nations peacekeepers led the way at France’s annual Bastille Day parade in Paris.
Their efforts were watched by a particularly distinguished audience assembled by President Nicolas Sarkozy, including Ban Ki-moon.
While the UN Secretary-General’s presence was not controversial, the same can’t be said for Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian leader. Among his critics are some army veterans who suspect Damascus played a role in a massacre of French troops in Lebanon in 1983.
Plenty of world leaders had stayed on in town after the launch of President Sarkozy’s Mediterranean Union project. They were treated to a breathtaking display by the French military.
But, as the VIP treatment was meted out, tensions remain in the country’s armed forces, with thousands of defence jobs due to be axed.
Sunday’s summit saw optimism about Middle East peace. And there was a warning against military action aimed at Iran over its nuclear programme.
An attack would have grave consequences, according to the Syrian president.
France has just taken over the rotating presidency of the European Union.
This weekend’s diplomatic successes and the impressive line-up watching the military review mark a major coup for President Sarkozy. And all the signs are that Paris sees this as just the beginning of a broader role it intends to play within the international community.