World Leaders Gather In Paris To Commemorate 100-Year Anniversary Of WWI Armistice

Dozens of world leaders have gathered at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris to mark the 100-year anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I. 

The historic moment was commemorated in a somber and rain-soaked ceremony led by French President Emmanuel Macron at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Sunday morning.

U.S. President Donald Trump, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres were among the dignitaries present. 

The armistice that ended the slaughter of World War I came into force at 11 a.m. Paris time on 11 November 1918. Signed in France, it marked the end of a bloody and protracted conflict that had killed millions of civilians and military personnel.

The ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe on Sunday was supposed to start promptly at 11 a.m. but world leaders were late to arrive, AP reported.

Most dignitaries had piled into buses at the French presidential palace and traveled together to the Arc de Triomphe. Trump and Putin, however, traveled separately to the site, apparently for security reasons.

Trump ― whose motorcade was rushed by a topless protester with anti-war slogans on her chest ― arrived later than the other leaders. Putin was last to arrive.

During the ceremony, Macron addressed the world leaders gathered and warned of the dangers of nationalism and the fragility of world peace.

“The traces of this war never went away,” the French leader said, referring to World War I, a conflict that had in part been fueled by a rise in nationalism among Europe’s Great Powers.

“The old demons are rising again … We must reaffirm before our peoples our true and huge responsibility,” he said.

Macron’s speech was seen by many as a repudiation of Trump’s “America First” rhetoric, and the recent surge of nationalism seen in Europe and elsewhere. 

“Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism. Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism. In saying ‘Our interests first, whatever happens to the others,’ you erase the most precious thing a nation can have, that which makes it live, that which causes it to be great and that which is most important: Its moral values,” Macron said.

Macron is scheduled to kick off the Paris Peace Forum on Sunday afternoon, a conference that the French leader has described as a chance for world leaders to reflect on the political miscalculations that had led to World War I and to ensure such a conflict is not repeated. 

President Trump will be conspicuously absent from the forum, which will be attended by several world leaders including Merkel, Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Trump plans to visit the Suresnes American Cemetery and Memorial outside Paris before flying back to Washington, AP reported. 

On Saturday, Trump was roundly lambasted for his decision to cancel a visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery ― the final resting place of many of the 1,800 American soldiers killed in the battle of Belleau Wood ― because of rain.

Trump sent a delegation led by White House chief of staff John Kelly in his place. 

On Sunday, countries around the world held ceremonies and other special events to mark the centenary of the armistice. 

In New Zealand, a 100-gun salute took place in the capital of Wellington as people across the country attended remembrance events.

In Australia, thousands of red paper poppies were dropped from the sky in Adelaide and thousands of people, many of them veterans, gathered at the National War Memorial in Canberra to pay tribute to the more than 60,000 Australian soldiers who perished in World War I. 

Queen Elizabeth II, British Prime Minister Theresa May and other leading national figures partook in moments of silence in solemn ceremonies held in cities and towns across Britain. 

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.

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