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Peace and reconciliation focus of Armistice centenary

A total 60 heads of state expected to attend Paris ceremony

Centenary commemorations of the 1918 Armistice in France will focus on Franco-German reconciliation and the restoration of peace in Europe - and will avoid strong 'military expression'.

Some 60 heads of state, including US President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have been invited by French President Emmanuel Macron to attend the national ceremony in Paris - which will take place at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, as normal.

There will, however, be no ceremony at Les Invalides, or tribute to the eight French marshals that had originally been planned by defence chiefs.

The decision to cut back the military pomp for the 100th anniversary was made jointly by French and German officials, and will honour the ordinary soldiers who took up arms. The Elysée defended the decision, saying that: "The fighters (...) were essentially civilians who had been armed. The meaning of this commemoration is not to celebrate the victory of 1918."

Not everyone is impressed, however. Michel Goya, a historian and former infantry colonel, described the decision as an "insult to the soldiers of 1918".

Bénédicte Chéron, a teacher and researcher specialising in defence issues, said: To describe the soldiers of World War One as "civilians who had been armed" is to ignore their filiation with today's army and, in the end, to consider that the sacrifice of contemporary soldiers would not be of the same order."

Since 2011, France has used the commemorations to remember all French soldiers killed while on duty, not just those who died during World War One. The idea was to "forge a link of continuity between the sacrifice of the soldiers of World War One, and that of the soldiers of today".

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