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Centenary of End of WWI Marked with Paris Ceremony

At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month — precisely 100 years after fighting halted in the first world war — leaders from more than 60 nations — the majority of countries that sent troops or workers to the Western Front — gathered at the Arc de Triomphe to remember the millions who died in the conflict.

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French President Emmanuel Macron lights up the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier under the Arc de Triomphe, Nov. 11, 2018 in Paris.

 

Earlier, U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin were the last to arrive at the Arc de Triomphe ceremony. The two shook hands and Putin gave a thumbs up in response to Trump asking “How are you?”

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French President Emmanuel Macron, his wife Brigitte, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Lithuania's President Dalia Grybauskaite, King Felipe VI of Spain, Denmark's Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen, European Commis

French President Emmanuel Macron, at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier under the arch, lit the eternal flame that is rekindled every night at the memorial engraved with the words: "Here rests a French soldier who died for the nation."

In his address, Macron spoke of the sacrifices of lives made a century ago in the four years of carnage in Europe.

“Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism,” said Macron. “Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism.”

"Old demons are reawakening, ready to sow chaos and death," warned Macron. "History sometimes threatens to repeat its tragic patterns and undermine the legacy of peace we thought we had sealed with the blood of our ancestors."

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Russian President Vladimir Putin, back to camera, arrives at a commemoration ceremony for Armistice Day at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France, Nov. 11, 2018.

Macron, later on Sunday, hosts a peace forum, which German chancellor says is meant to demonstrate efforts “to do everything to bring a more peaceful order to the world, even though we know we still have much work to do."

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French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech before a lunch at the Elysee Palace, during commemorations for Armistice Day, 100 years after the end of World War One, in Paris, France, Nov. 11, 2018.

Trump, an advocate of a nationalist 'America first' policy, is not attending but Putin is expected to do so.

Sunday’s somber centenary ceremony, under rainy skies, also featured cellist Yo-Yo Ma, singer Angelique Kidjo of the African nation of Benin and buglers who ended a minute of silence.

No soldier from the war is known to still be alive but their voices were present through high school students reading their letters written at the front on this day a century ago.

U.S. Army Capt. Charles Normington wrote that "each soldier had his arms full of French girls, some crying, others laughing; each girl had to kiss every soldier before she would let him pass. There is nowhere on earth I would rather be."

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West Point cadets pose before a commemoration ceremony for Armistice Day, 100 years after the end of the First World War at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France, Nov. 11, 2018.

"Finally, the whir of the shells and the whistling of the bullets are over," wrote French infantryman Alfred Roumiguieres.

The war’s four years of carnage was intended — as the British and Americans idealistically insisted — to be the “war to end all wars.” But little more than 20 years later global conflict would again erupt with casualties on an unprecedented scale.

Trump cancels cemetery visit

Trump canceled a visit to an American cemetery outside Paris Saturday.

A White House statement said the president's visit was canceled because of scheduling and logistical difficulties caused by the weather.

An American delegation led by Chief of Staff General John Kelly and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joe Dunford did visit the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial under gray skies and drizzle, paying respect to the nearly 2,300 war dead buried at the site of the June 1918 Battle of Belleau Wood.

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White House Chief of Staff John Kelly attends a ceremony at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery dedicated to the U.S. soldiers killed in the Belleau Wood battle during World War One at Belleau, France, Nov. 10, 2018.

Trump was criticized on social media for remaining in Paris during the afternoon with no other scheduled events, as images were broadcast of French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel holding hands at the site in the Compiegne Forest, north of the capital, where allies and defeated Germans signed the agreement that ended the war.

Some former U.S. officials suggested Trump could have visited the cemetery if he really desired.

“There is always a rain option. Always,” wrote on Twitter Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser under President Barack Obama, who explained he helped plan such foreign visits during the two terms of Trump’s predecessor.

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President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron gesture during their meeting inside the Elysee Palace in Paris, Nov. 10, 2018.

Tense start 

Earlier Saturday, Trump and Macron discussed their differences about European security. The meeting came soon after Donald Trump arrived in Paris and criticized his host via Twitter, calling Macron's support for a European military force "very insulting."

In the touchdown tweet, Trump suggested Europe first pay “its fair share” of NATO before contemplating a Europe-wide force.

As they began their meeting Saturday morning at the Elysee Palace, the U.S. president again called for better burden sharing for the cost of defending Europe.

“We want a strong Europe,” said Trump.

Macron replied: “I do believe we need more European capacities, more European defense.”

Trump and Macron avoided any criticism of each other in front of the media.

Macron, during a visit to the World War I Western Front at Verdun, told Europe 1 radio that in face of a revived threat from Moscow that Europe needed to “defend itself better alone” and Europeans cannot protect themselves without a “true European army.”

Macron, in the interview, also blasted Trump’s recent announcement that Washington will withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty) limiting nuclear weapons that U.S. President Ronald Reagan and the Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev agreed to.

The “main victim” of the withdrawal, Macron argued, is “Europe and its security.”

French officials, however, say — without elaborating — there was a misunderstanding by Trump about Macron’s comments, noting the U.S. president told his French counterpart in their Saturday meeting: "I think we are much closer than it seems."

Source: Steve Herman, VOA News

 

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