Some 70 world leaders gathered under rainy skies at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris on Sunday for a solemn ceremony to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One.
U.S. President Donald Trump, Russia President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and dozens of monarchs,presidents and prime ministers from Europe, Africa, the Middle East and beyond joined French President Emmanuel Macron to mark the moment guns fell silent across Europe a century ago.
The commemoration is the centre piece of global tributes to honour the 10 million soldiers who were killed during the 1914-18 war and the moment the Armistice, signed in northeastern France, came into effect at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918.
As Trump’s convoy was making its way up the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe, a bare-breasted protester from the Femen radical feminist group ran towards his motorcade, coming within a few metres, before being apprehended by police.
Photographs of the incident appeared to show that she had the words “fake peacemaker” scrawled across her body.
In a glass canopy at the foot of the triumphal arch, built by Emperor Napoleon in 1806, the leaders stood for the solemn ceremony. The last to arrive was Russia’s Putin, who shook hands with Macron, Merkel and then Trump, briefly giving the U.S.leader a thumbs up.
Macron stood to attention as a military band played the Marseillaise, the French national anthem, before walking through the rain to inspect troops. He then took his place under the Arc while cellist Yo-Yo Ma played a movement from a Bach symphony.
WEEKEND OF TRIBUTES
In a rare public display of emotion by the leaders of two world powers, Macron and Merkel held hands on Saturday during a poignant ceremony in the Compiegne Forest, north of Paris, where French and German delegations signed the Armistice that ended the war.
The conflict was one of the bloodiest in history, reshaping Europe’s politics and demographics. Peace, however, was short-lived and two decades later Nazi Germany invaded its neighbours.
On Sunday afternoon, Macron will host the inaugural Paris Peace Forum, which seeks to promote a multilateral approach to security and governance and ultimately avoid the errors that led to the outbreak of World War One.
Merkel said in a statement the forum showed that “today there is a will, and I say this on behalf of Germany with full conviction, to do everything to bring a more peaceful order to the world, even though we know we still have much work to do.”
Trump, who champions a nationalist ‘America first’ policy,will not attend the forum. The U.S. leader has said he will also not hold a bilateral meeting with Putin in Paris.
Trump and Putin are expected to have formal talks later this month when both attend a G-20 summit in Buenos Aires.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller is probing alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election and any possible collusion with Trump’s campaign.