His­tory, mod­ern-day ten­sions to mix at WWI com­mem­o­ra­tions

The Borneo Post (Sabah) - - WORLD -

PARIS: World lead­ers will put on a show of unity this week­end as they com­mem­o­rate 100 years since the end of World War I, but mod­ern-day ten­sions will be bub­bling un­der the sur­face at the re­mem­brances in Paris.

French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron will host around 70 lead­ers Sun­day for a cer­e­mony on the Champs-El­y­sees to mark the sign­ing of the Ar­mistice be­tween Ger­many and Al­lied forces that ended the fight­ing in Eu­rope.

It will cap a week packed with sym­bol­ism to re­mem­ber the si­lenc­ing of the guns, with memo­ri­als held across the world for a con­flict that claimed around 18 mil­lion lives and in­volved more than 70 cur­rent-day na­tions.

Macron, a cen­trist, has re­peat­edly in­voked the war in re­cent weeks to ham­mer home his mes­sage that ris­ing na­tion­al­ism around the globe is again desta­bil­is­ing the world.

In a speech af­ter the com­mem­o­ra­tions, he will “re­mind ev­ery­one of the need to de­fend and re­in­force global mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism”, an aide said this week.

Two fig­ures seen by Macron as re­spon­si­ble for un­der­min­ing the rules-based world or­der and its in­sti­tu­tions — US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and Rus­sian leader Vladimir Putin — will both be in Paris at the week­end.

Macron re­port­edly re­quested that they post­pone a planned meet­ing amid fears that the re­sult­ing head­lines would over­shadow the com­mem­o­ra­tions at the Arc de Tri­om­phe, a me­mo­rial to France’s war dead.

“It should be a beau­ti­ful pe­riod of time,” Trump said of his Paris visit be­fore leav­ing Wash­ing­ton on Fri­day. “We will have many coun­tries’ lead­er­ship there, es­pe­cially since they heard the US will be there.”

The US leader has badly strained the al­liance of Western coun­tries since his elec­tion in 2016 by pulling out of in­ter­na­tional agree­ments cov­er­ing cli­mate change, Iran’s nu­clear pro­gramme, and mis­siles.

Putin’s de­ci­sion to an­nex Crimea in 2014 and re-draw Ukraine’s

bor­der by force plunged his re­la­tions with Euro­pean lead­ers into their big­gest cri­sis since the Cold War.

World pow­ers find them­selves at log­ger­heads on a host of is­sues, from trade to cli­mate change and even the use of chem­i­cal weapons — which were first de­ployed to dev­as­tat­ing ef­fect dur­ing World War I.

In the Syr­ian civil war, Rus­sian, Amer­i­can, Euro­pean and Mid­dle Eastern forces are all in ac­tion in a com­plex web of al­liances. Trump is set to meet Macron for talks on Satur­day, but he will snub a con­fer­ence ded­i­cated to in­ter­na­tional in­sti­tu­tions and global gov­er­nance on Sun­day which has been or­gan­ised by his French host.

While Macron and Trump struck up a warm re­la­tion­ship ini­tially, par­tic­u­larly dur­ing Trump’s first visit to Paris as pres­i­dent in July 2017, they have re­peat­edly clashed since over a grow­ing list of dis­agree­ments.

“Their per­sonal re­la­tion­ship is ex­cel­lent,” US Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­vi­sor John Bolton told re­porters in Paris on Fri­day.

“There have been dis­agree­ments on sub­stan­tive pol­icy is­sues, for sure, but that’s be­cause lead­ers pur­sue what they per­ceive to be their na­tional in­ter­ests,” he said.

He played down Trump’s de­ci­sion not to at­tend the in­au­gu­ral Paris Peace Fo­rum to be opened by Macron on Sun­day af­ter­noon along with Ger­man Chan­cel­lor Merkel and UN Sec­re­tary Gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res.

“The pres­i­dent’s sched­ule is tight. There are a lot of press­ing is­sues that the pres­i­dent has to at­tend to,” ex­plained Bolton, a arch-hard­liner and ad­vo­cate of us­ing US power uni­lat­er­ally.

The Paris Fo­rum is part of the ‘fight­back’ against the ris­ing tide of na­tion­al­ism world­wide, chief or­gan­iser Justin Vaisse told AFP in a re­cent in­ter­view.

“The aim of the fo­rum is to

Mem­bers of fem­i­nist move­ment Fe­men are evac­u­ated by the po­lice af­ter demon­strat­ing in front of the Arc de Tri­om­phe, as sev­eral lead­ers are to ar­rive in Paris on the eve of the com­mem­o­ra­tions of WWI ar­mistice cen­te­nary. — AFP photo

Macron and Bri­tain's Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May ar­rive for a meet­ing at the city hall in Al­bert, France as part of a World War One com­mem­o­ra­tion tour.

Trump speaks to re­porters as he de­parts the White House in Wash­ing­ton, US, en­route to Paris.

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