Leaders mark WWI Armistice centenary

By AAP Newswire

Some 70 world leaders have gathered under rainy skies at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris for a solemn ceremony to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.

US President Donald Trump, Russia President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and dozens of monarchs, presidents and prime ministers from Europe, Africa, the Middle East and beyond joined French President Emmanuel Macron to mark the moment guns fell silent across Europe a century ago.

The commemoration is the centrepiece of global tributes to honour the 10 million soldiers who were killed during the 1914-18 war and the moment the Armistice, signed in northeastern France, came into effect at 11am on November 11, 1918.

In a glass canopy at the foot of the triumphal arch, built by Emperor Napoleon in 1806, the leaders stood for the solemn ceremony. The last to arrive was Russia's Putin, who shook hands with Macron, Merkel and then Trump, briefly giving the US leader a thumbs up.

Macron stood to attention as a military band played the Marseillaise, the French national anthem, before walking through the rain to inspect troops. He then took his place under the Arc while cellist Yo-Yo Ma played a movement from a Bach symphony.

"Ancient demons" and "new ideologies" threaten peace, Macron told the commemoration.

"History is at times threatening to return to its tragic course, and to compromise the heritage of peace that we had thought was sealed with the blood of our ancestors.

"Let us once again take this oath of nations, to place peace above all, because we know its price, we know its weight, we know what it demands.

"All of us political leaders, we must, on this November 11, 2018, reaffirm before our peoples our real, our immense responsibility: that of passing on to our children the world that previous generations dreamed of. Together, we can banish the spectres of climate change, poverty, hunger, illness, all the inequalities and every ignorance."

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 neighbours.

On Sunday afternoon, Macron will host the inaugural Paris Peace Forum, which seeks to promote a multilateral approach to security and governance and ultimately avoid the errors that led to the outbreak of World War I.

Merkel said in a statement the forum showed that "today there is a will, and I say this on behalf of Germany with full conviction, to do everything to bring a more peaceful order to the world, even though we know we still have much work to do."

Trump, who champions a nationalist 'America first' policy, will not attend the forum.