Ten­sions bub­ble un­der com­mem­o­ra­tion show of unity

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - World -

World lead­ers will put on a show of unity this week­end as they com­mem­o­rate 100 years since the end of World War 1, but mod­ern-day ten­sions will be bub­bling un­der the sur­face at the re­mem­brances in Paris.

French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron will host about 70 lead­ers on 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 about 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.

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

Trump 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.

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.

The in­au­gu­ral Paris Peace Fo­rum – dubbed a “Davos for democ­racy” by French of­fi­cials – will be opened on Sun­day af­ter­noon by Macron, who will then sym­bol­i­cally hand the floor to Ger­man Chan­cel­lor Merkel and UN Sec­re­tary Gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res.

The Fo­rum is part of the “fight-back” against the ris­ing tide of na­tion­al­ism world­wide, chief or­gan­iser Justin Vaisse said.

Putin and Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan are ex­pected to join a host of Euro­pean heads of state and African lead­ers, in­clud­ing Nige­ria’s Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari and Kenya’s Uhuru Keny­atta, at the fo­rum.

EM­MANUEL MACRON

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