This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
Dozens of world leaders have attended a ceremony in Paris to commemorate the centenary of the armistice that brought an end to World War I.
Guns fell silent on November 11, 1918, ending the four-year war that killed at least 10 million soldiers and millions of civilians.
French President Emmanuel Macron and some 70 heads of state and government — including U.S. President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel — gathered under steady rain at the Arc de Triomphe, where an unknown soldier killed in the war is buried.
In a speech, Macron urged the world leaders to come together in a joint “fight for peace,” saying, “Let us build our hopes rather than playing our fears against each other.”
Cameras at the event captured Trump and Putin briefly shaking hands after the Russian leader arrived.
Trump has repeatedly expressed hope for improvement in ties with Russia, which have been badly strained by disputes over issues that include Moscow’s military interference in Ukraine and its alleged meddling in the U.S. election in 2016. But his term has been clouded by investigations into the alleged Russian meddling and whether his associates colluded with Moscow during and after the campaign.
Earlier, as Trump’s convoy was making its way up the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe, a bare-breasted female protester with the words “fake peacemaker” written on her chest came within a few meters of the president’s motorcade before being apprehended by police. The feminist activist group Femen claimed responsibility for the action.
In a dinner late on November 10 with many of the visiting leaders, Macron warned against taking peace for granted.
“Some of us were on opposite sides at the time [of WWI], and we are reunited tonight. That is the greatest homage we can pay” to the fallen soldiers,” he said.
Macron on November 11 will also host the first Paris Peace Forum, which seeks to promote a multilateral approach to security and governance.
Merkel said 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 is not expected to attend the forum ceremony, although Putin is.
Trump has said he will not hold a bilateral summit with Putin in Paris, with the White House saying he did not want to overshadow the WWI ceremonies.
They are likely to meet at the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires later in the month.