World leaders assembled in Paris

In Solemn Paris Ceremony, Macron Leads Armistice Commemorations, Pashinyan Speaks at Peace Forum


PARIS (Reuters) — President Emmanuel Macron led tributes to the millions of soldiers who died during World War I on Sunday, November 11, holding a solemn ceremony attended by dozens of world leaders in Paris to commemorate the centenary of the Armistice.

US President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and dozens of princes, monarchs, presidents and prime ministers joined Macron to mark the moment guns fell silent across Europe a century ago.

Those who fought in the trenches of World War I lived through an unimaginable hell, Macron said in a 20-minute address, highlighting that as well as the deaths of 10 million troops, millions of women were widowed and children orphaned.

“The lesson of the Great War cannot be that of resentment between peoples, nor should the past be forgotten,” said Macron, sorrow etched on the faces of former French soldiers standing to attention around him during the ceremony.

“It is our deeply rooted obligation to think of the future, and to consider what is essential.”

The commemoration is the centerpiece of global tributes to honor those who perished during the 1914-18 war and to commemorate the signing of the Armistice that brought the fighting to an end at 11 a.m. on November 11, 1918.

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In a glass canopy at the foot of the Arc de Triomphe, built by Emperor Napoleon in 1806, Trump, Merkel, Macron, Putin and the other leaders listened through earpieces as the French president spoke. Putin, who was last to arrive at the ceremony, gave Trump a brief thumb’s up as he greeted them.

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 neighbors.

Macron spent the week in the buildup to Sunday’s ceremony touring towns and former battlefields that laid along France’s western front. During the tour, he warned of the dangers of the resurgence of nationalism in Europe, saying it posed a threat to the continent — a theme he touched on again in his speech.

“Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism. Nationalism is its betrayal,” the French leader said.

“Old demons are reawakening, ready to sow chaos and death,” he said, warning of how ideology, religion and a disregard for facts could be exploited. “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.”

After the ceremony, leaders returned to the Elysee Palace for a lunch to be hosted by Macron and his wife Brigitte.

On Sunday afternoon, Macron hosted the inaugural Paris Peace Forum.

Pashinyan at Peace Forum

Armenian Acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan participated in the Paris Peace Conference. He brought up both the Armenian Genocide as well as the Karabakh (Artsakh) stalemate. He also said that because of the Armenian Genocide, similar tragedies have befallen other peoples.

Emmanuel Macron and Nikol Pashinyan greet one another in Paris

The conference was opened by the welcoming words of the Vice President of the Paris Peace Conference Executive Committee, Trisha Shetty as well as Macron. The German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres also spoke.

Said Pashinyan, “World War I was a global tragedy for all the peoples involved, and eventually led to the collapse of the referral states. There is conviction that in geopolitical and military terms, there are always winners and losers in wars. However, from the human point of view nobody wins. Wars cause only loss, suffering, and destructions.”

He added, “And despite our united efforts and calls for learning from previous mistakes, these lessons are easily forgotten. During the First World War, the Entente powers first used the definition of ‘crime against humanity and civilization’ thus condemning the Ottoman authorities for the destruction of 1.5 million Armenians. Later this terrible crime was to be called the first genocide of the 20th century.

“However, only a few decades later, humanity witnessed the Holocaust, the genocides of Cambodia, Rwanda, the genocides of Christians and Yezidis in the Middle East, the violence against the people of Rohingya.”

He then spoke about Artsakh.

“One of the lessons of the war was the formulation of the right of peoples to self-determination in 14 well-known Wilson celebrations. It was then included in the UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act, and became the basis for the half of the modern world’s independence.

“As a result of the World War I, the peoples of the world with the power of the law confirmed their right to rule their own destiny with free expression of will. Here, in France, I consider it necessary to underline that just a few days ago France clearly reaffirmed its principled position on this issue.”

He continued, For that reason, the decades-long struggle of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh has not yet received a proper legal solution to manage its fate. In the 21st century it is absolutely unacceptable that the desire to apply the right of people to self-determination can turn into a biological threat.”

He praised the gathering, suggesting that the coming together of nations for dialogue reduced tensions.

“That is why we need to remember the most important lesson of World War I. No state can build its success on the misery of others, no one can gain freedom from the slavery of others.

The end of the First World War ended a hundred years ago. And this is a great opportunity to think about the era of peace without wars. I believe that the leaders gathered here in Paris will be able to achieve that goal. And it will be the best esteem of respect for the innocent victims of the preceding century. “

After the speech Nikol Pashinyan handed a symbolic book to the Peace Library, an illustrated book by historian Hayk Demoyan titled Coverage of the Armenian Genocide on the First World Press.

The previous evening, Pashinyan and his wife, Anna Hakobyan, along with other leaders and their spouses visited the “Picasso, Blue and Rose” exhibition  at the Musée d’Orsay.

(Material from Prime Minister Pashinyan’s office was used in this story.)

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