PARIS (AP) — The leaders of France and Germany have held an intimate commemoration at the site north of Paris where the vanquished Germans and victorious but exhausted Allies put an end to World War 1.
President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel used the occasion Saturday to laud European peace and to demonstrate, in person, how countries that were once bitter enemies need not stay that way.
Merkel even snuggled her head against Macron’s head as they stood in front of a somber memorial. The two leaders also climbed aboard a replica of the train wagon where the armistice was signed a century ago Sunday. Macron affectionately took Merkel’s hand after they signed a guestbook.
Afterward, talking to young people in the crowd, Macron said he and the German chancellor wanted to mark the centenary because ‘‘We owe it to our soldiers who fell, to those young men who were your age or just a little bit older.’’
Earlier in the day, Macron is pushing for a strong joint European military as he hosts international events marking the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.
Macron is launching a peace forum Sunday to stress the importance of multilateral cooperation to prevent new world wars, but he also stressed the importance of investing in Europe’s military forces.
In a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump, Macron said that ‘‘it’s unfair to have European security today being assured by the U.S.’’ He added ‘‘that’s why I believe we need more European capacities and more defense.’’
Macron has pushed for a European intervention force but the idea meets resistance in some capitals, which want to keep military capabilities under national sovereignty.
He hailed a ‘‘superb operation’’ against Syria earlier this year — when U.S., French and British forces bombed targets believed to be part of President Bashar Assad’s chemical weapons program.
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