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Visiting France

Hollande pays tribute to civilian victims, Obama hails Patton’s army at marathon D-Day ceremonies

media Britain's Queen Elizabeth lays a wreath at the British War cemetery in Bayeux Reuters/Toby Melville

French President François Hollande for the first time paid tribute to the 20,000 civilians who died after the World War II Normandy landings at 70th anniversary ceremonies in France on Friday. “France will never forget what it owes the US,” he said before American leader Barack Obama took the stand.

“Today on this 70th anniversary I wanted the nation’s homage to be addressed to all, civilians and soldiers,” Hollande said. “I wanted the role of the Normans to be recognised.”

His words were the first official tribute to the 20,000 civilians who died in the three months of fighting that followed the landings when 130,000 allied soldiers arrived on French soil to fight the German army.

Hollande, whose relations with Obama have worsened recently thanks to France’s sale of warships to Russia and the US’s plan to slap a massive fine on BNP Paribas, also paid tribute to the role of US soldiers in the liberation of france.

At the ceremony at the US war cemetery at Omaha Beach Obama hailed those who had “sacrificed for our liberty”.

"By the end of that longest day, this beach had been fought, lost, refought and won - a piece of Europe once again liberated and free,” he declared. “Hitler's Wall was breached, letting loose Patton's Army to pour into France.”

A series of ceremonies were planned for the day, with the final one taking place at the town of Ouistreheim, where French troops in the Kieffer Commando fought.

The 19 heads of state, including Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin, will all attend a lunch at the Château de Bénouville, a location associated with the French resistance.

The occasion will be delicate from the diplomatic point of view since most of the countries present are furious with Putin over his stance on the Ukraine conflict, obliging Hollande to eat two meals on Thursday evening, one wit Obama, the second with Putin.


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