Tensions bubble under commemoration show of unity
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.