Dozens of world leaders gathered on Sunday at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris to mark the 100-year anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I.
The historic moment was commemorated in a somber and rain-soaked ceremony led by French President Emmanuel Macron at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
U.S. President Donald Trump, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres were among the dignitaries present.
The armistice that ended the slaughter of World War I came into force at 11 a.m. Paris time on Nov. 11, 1918. Signed in France, it marked the end of a conflict that began in the summer of 1914.
As the war began, most government and military officials anticipated it would end quickly. Instead, it devolved into a protracted struggle that killed millions of civilians and military personnel.
The ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe on Sunday was supposed to start promptly at 11 a.m. but world leaders were late to arrive, The Associated Press reported.
Most dignitaries piled into buses at the French presidential palace and traveled together to the Arc de Triomphe. Trump and Putin, however, traveled separately to the site, apparently for security reasons.
Trump ― whose motorcade was rushed by a topless protester with anti-war slogans on her chest ― arrived later than the other leaders. Putin was the last to arrive.
During the ceremony, Macron in his remarks warned of the dangers of nationalism and the fragility of world peace.
“The traces of this war never went away,” he said, referring to the Great War ― as it was known at the time ― being fueled in part by a rise in nationalism among Europe’s leading powers.
“The old demons are rising again,” Macron said. “We must reaffirm before our peoples our true and huge responsibility.”
Macron’s speech was seen by many as a repudiation of Trump’s “America First” policies and rhetoric, as well as the recent surge of nationalism seen in Europe and elsewhere.
“Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism. Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism,” Macron said. “In saying ‘Our interests first, whatever happens to the others,’ you erase the most precious thing a nation can have, that which makes it live, that which causes it to be great and that which is most important: Its moral values.”
Macron convenes the Paris Peace Forum on Sunday afternoon, a conference he has described as a chance for world leaders to reflect on the political miscalculations that had led to World War I and to ensure such a conflict is not repeated.
Trump will be conspicuously absent from the forum, while those attending include Merkel, Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Trump plans to visit the Suresnes American Cemetery and Memorial outside Paris before flying back to Washington, he AP reported.
On Saturday, Trump was roundly lambasted for his decision to cancel a visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery ― the final resting place for many of the 1,800 American service members killed in the battle of Belleau Wood ― because of rain.
Trump sent a delegation led by White House chief of staff John Kelly in his place.
On Sunday, countries around the world held ceremonies and other special events to mark the centenary of the armistice.
In New Zealand, a 100-gun salute took place in the capital of Wellington as people across the country attended remembrance events.
In Australia, thousands of red paper poppies were dropped from the sky in Adelaide and thousands of people, many of them veterans, gathered at the National War Memorial in Canberra to pay tribute to the more than 60,000 Australian soldiers who perished in World War I.
Queen Elizabeth II, British Prime Minister Theresa May and other leading national figures partook in moments of silence in solemn ceremonies held in cities and towns across Britain.