World leaders to descend on France for WWI commemorations

A man dressed as a French soldier of the World war I (WWI) also called "poilu" stands guard in front of a monument in tribute to the soldiers killed during the World War I. (AFP)
Updated 04 November 2018
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World leaders to descend on France for WWI commemorations

  • Macron is gearing up for a busy week of diplomacy that will see him play host to leaders including Trump and Putin
  • Macron will notably use the international spotlight to issue a rallying cry against populism

PARIS: France kicks off a week of World War I commemorations from Sunday, with some 80 leaders from around the globe preparing to fly in for a ceremony marking a century since the guns fell silent.
French President Emmanuel Macron is gearing up for a busy week of diplomacy that will see him play host to leaders including US President Donald Trump and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
He will also be criss-crossing northern France, visiting the battlefields where hundreds of thousands of men lost their lives in the trenches.
Macron will notably use the international spotlight to issue a rallying cry against populism — in the presence of “America First” Trump and other nationalist leaders.
The commemorations will culminate in a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris on November 11 attended by dozens of leaders including Trump, Putin and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, 100 years to the day since the armistice.
The ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on the Champs-Elysees avenue will be held under tight security following a string of deadly jihadist attacks in France over the past three years.
Remembrance events begin on Sunday, November 3 with a concert celebrating friendship between former wartime enemies France and Germany in the border city of Strasbourg, attended by Macron and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
Macron will then spend the week visiting the Western Front battlefields, from Verdun to the Somme.
On Tuesday, in honor of the “black army” of former colonial troops who fought alongside the French, he and Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita will visit Reims, a city defended by the African soldiers.
Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May will join Macron on the Somme on Friday, while on Saturday he heads to the village of Rethondes, where the armistice was signed, with Merkel.
War commemorations aside, Macron is set to use his tour of northern France to visit areas hit hard by industrial decline, where far-right leader Marine Le Pen performed strongly in last year’s presidential election.
“After paying homage to those who died for their country it will be back to dealing with social and economic problems,” said Bruno Cautres of political think-tank CEVIPOF.
Macron — who has struggled to shake off an image as a “president of the rich” — will zip through 17 towns, holding Wednesday’s weekly cabinet meeting in the Ardennes, an area which was battered by the war and today suffers high unemployment.
The 40-year-old president, whose approval rating is languishing at a dismal 21 percent according to a YouGov poll released Thursday, has dismissed rumors that he is suffering from burn-out.
He sparked rampant speculation by taking a few days off ahead of the tour, which aides have insisted were to gather his energy before an intense week of diplomacy.
This week is an opportunity for the centrist to “reflect a strong presidential image” both at home and abroad, Cautres said.
Macron is set to use his speeches to hammer home warnings of the dangers of nationalism at a time when populists are on the march around Europe and beyond.
In an interview Thursday, he said Europe risked a return to the 1930s because of the spread of a nationalist “leprosy” across the continent.
“I am struck by similarities between the times we live in and those of between the two world wars,” he told the Ouest-France newspaper.
“In a Europe divided by fears, the return of nationalism, the consequences of economic crisis, one sees almost systematically everything that marked Europe between the end of World War I and the 1929 (economic) crisis.”
Macron is attempting to position himself as a champion of centrist politics and multilateralism in the run-up to European parliamentary elections in May, saying he expects the duel to be one between “progressives” and “nationalists.”
After next Sunday’s ceremony, world leaders are set to attend a three-day peace forum opened by Merkel, an event which France wants to turn into an annual multilateral peace conference.


Preachers of Hate: Arab News launches series to expose hate-mongers from all religions

Updated 31 min 55 sec ago
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Preachers of Hate: Arab News launches series to expose hate-mongers from all religions

  • Daesh may be defeated, but the bigoted ideas that fueled their extremism live on
  • Campaign could not be more timely, with a rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes since Christchurch attacks

RIYADH: Dozens of Daesh militants emerged from tunnels to surrender to Kurdish-led forces in eastern Syria on Sunday, a day after their “caliphate” was declared defeated.

Men filed out of the battered Daesh encampment in the riverside village of Baghouz near the Iraqi border to board pickup trucks. “They are fighters who came out of tunnels and surrendered today,” Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) spokesman Jiaker Amed said. “Some others could still be hiding inside.”

World leaders hail Saturday’s capture of the last shred of land controlled by Daesh in Syria, but the top foreign affairs official for the semi-autonomous Kurdish region warned that Daesh captives still posed a threat.

“There are thousands of fighters, children and women and from 54 countries, not including Iraqis and Syrians, who are a serious burden and danger for us and for the international community,” Abdel Karim Omar said. “Numbers increased massively during the last 20 days of the Baghouz operation.”

 While the terrorists have a suffered a defeat, the pernicious ideologies that drive them, and the hate speech that fuels those ideologies, live on. For that reason Arab News today launches Preachers of Hate — a weekly series, published in print and online, in which we profile, contextualize and analyze extremist preachers from all religions, backgrounds and nationalities.



In the coming weeks, our subjects will include the Saudi cleric Safar Al-Hawali, the Egyptian preacher Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, the American-Israeli rabbi Meir Kahane, the Yemeni militia leader Abdul Malik Al-Houthi, and the US pastor Terry Jones, among others.

The series begins today with an investigation into the background of Brenton Tarrant, the Australian white supremacist who shot dead 50 people in a terrorist attack 10 days ago on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Tarrant is not just a terrorist, but is himself a Preacher of Hate, author of a ranting manifesto that attempts to justify his behavior. How did a shy, quiet boy from rural New South Wales turn into a hate-filled gunman intent on killing Muslims? The answers may surprise you.

Our series could not be more timely — anti-Muslim hate crimes in the UK have soared by almost 600 percent since the Christchurch attack, it was revealed on Sunday.

The charity Tell MAMA (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks), which records and measures anti-Muslim incidents, said almost all of the increase comprised “language, symbols or actions linked to the Christchurch attacks.”

“Cases included people making gestures of pointing a pistol at Muslim women and comments about British Muslims and an association with actions taken by the terrorist in New Zealand,” the charity said.

“The spike shows a troubling rise after Muslims were murdered in New Zealand,” said Iman Atta, director of Tell MAMA. “Figures have risen over 590 percent since New Zealand in comparison to the week just before the attack.