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France

Former foes unite in Paris to mark end of World War I

Video by Julien FANCIULLI , Yuka ROYER

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2009-11-12

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has taken part in ceremonies in Paris to honour the victims of World War I alongside French President Nicolas Sarkozy, becoming the first German leader to do so.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel met at the foot of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris on Wednesday to mark 91 years since the end of the First World War on November 11, 1918.

The event came just two days after the pair attended massive ceremonies in Berlin to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. 

Though previously centred on France’s victory over German troops, the focus of
From Berlin: "German people aren't really comfortable with the military pomp and circumstance of these ceremonies"
Armistice Day ceremonies has gradually shifted towards a new era of Franco-German friendship after decades of hostility. This year's event marked the first time a German leader took part in the commemorations with the French head of state.
 
Sarkozy described the German chancellor’s presence during the ceremony as “an exceptional gesture of friendship”, while Merkel expressed her “sincerest gratitude” at being invited. Both stressed the senseless horror and killing that the two World Wars had brought upon their countries and the world during the first half of the 20th century, and paid homage to the millions of soldiers who lost their lives in the trenches.
 
The two leaders together rekindled the flame on the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, surrounded by a division of the Franco-German Brigade and officers from both countries’ armed forces.
 
After the death of France's last Great War veteran Lazare Ponticelli last year, Sarkozy had said he wanted to make November 11 “a day of Franco-German reconciliation, to build a joint future”.
 
“With the death of the last French veteran died the last witness who could cry out with strength: Never Again”, said the French president. “It is when all the witnesses have died that we must remember. We are expressing, the Chancellor and I, the memories in our hearts”, he added.

Speaking in turn, Angela Merkel stressed that Germany “will never forget the suffering inflicted by Germans on the French people”.

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“To deal with our own history is the only way to draw the lessons necessary to shape the future”, she declared, adding that “the force of reconciliation will enable us to take up new challenges, together”.

Both leaders ended their speeches with the phrase: "Long live France, long live Germany, long live Franco-German friendship".

After a rough start, the relationship between the two leaders has recently developed into a strong partnership, leading some to talk of a “Franco-German honeymoon”. The pair have launched multiple diplomatic initiatives together, and are expected to announce a raft of joint measures early next year to further boost cooperation between the two countries.

 

Date created : 2009-11-11

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