French President Emmanuel Macron has issued a thinly-veiled rebuke to US President Donald Trump’s nationalist rhetoric as world leaders gathered for emotional Armistice commemoration ceremony in Paris.
Mr Macron urged the leaders marking the centenary of the end of World War One to reject nationalism, describing it as a “betrayal of patriotism”.
“By saying ‘our interests first and never mind the others’ you stamp out the most precious thing a nation has – its moral values,” he said Monday morning (Australian time).
Mr Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and dozens of monarchs, princes, presidents and prime ministers listened from a glass canopy at the foot of the Arc de Triomphe as the French President spoke.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison did not travel to France for the commemorations.
Mr Putin, who was last to arrive at the ceremony, gave Mr Trump a brief thumbs up as he greeted them.
Mr Trump, who recently declared himself “nationalist,” appeared stony faced as he listened to a translation of the speech through an earpiece and clapped only tepidly afterward.
“The lesson of the Great War cannot be that of resentment between peoples, nor should the past be forgotten,” Mr Macron said said.
“It is our deeply rooted obligation to think of the future, and to consider what is essential.”
The commemoration was the centrepiece of global tributes to honour those who died during the 1914-18 war and to commemorate the signing of the Armistice that brought the fighting to an end at 11am on November 11, 1918.
The commemoration included children reading out letters from German, French and British soldiers during the war, a recital by cellist Yo-Yo Ma and a moving performance of Maurice Ravel’s Bolero.
As Mr Trump’s convoy made its way up the Champs Elysees, a bare-breasted protester from the Femen radical feminist group, the words “fake peacemaker” scrawled across her body, ran towards his motorcade.
She came within a few metres before being apprehended by police.
Une activiste FEMEN face à la voiture de Trump, remontant les Champs Élysée, dénonçant l’hypocrisie de cette cérémonie du 11 novembre. pic.twitter.com/6n6216EdCf
— FEMEN (@Femen_France) November 11, 2018
The conflict being remembered on Sunday 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.
Mr Macron warned of the dangers of the resurgence of nationalism in Europe, saying “old demons” were reawakening, “ready to sow chaos and death”.
“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,” he said.
Mr Trump later travelled the short distance to Suresnes American Cemetery, perched on Mont Valérien with a panoramic view of the French capital.
The US President earlier attracted criticism for failing to attend a commemoration at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery in Belleau because of rain.
Mr Trump was scheduled to pay tribute the cemetery in Belleau, about 85 kilometres east of Paris, with his wife Melania on Saturday, but light, steady rain and a low cloud ceiling prevented his helicopter from travelling to the site, the White House said.