Emmanuel Macron, the French president, is facing criticism for refusing to attend an international ceremony at Normandy’s Juno Beach marking the 75th anniversary of D-Day next week.
Instead, he is to take charge of a ceremony in homage to French commandos and Resistance fighters who took part in the Normandy landings in 1944.
Mr Macron’s critics described his absence from the June 6 ceremony as an insult to Allied veterans. Philippe Gosselin, the local centre-Right opposition MP, tweeted: “This is an affront to #veterans. I am ashamed for #France.”
Government officials rejected the accusation, saying that French presidents only lead international D-Day ceremonies on round-number anniversaries such as the 60th or 70th.
The president’s critics argue that he should make an exception this year as it is likely to be the last major D-Day anniversary while veterans are still alive.
In the morning of June 6, Theresa May and Mr Macron will lay the foundation stone of the future British Normandy Memorial, commemorating the 22,442 troops under British command who died in the summer of 1944 during fierce fighting as the Allies invaded France.
Later he will join Donald Trump at the American cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer. At Omaha Beach, Mr Macron will award the Legion of Honour, France’s highest distinction, to five American veterans aged between 94 and 100.
But later in the afternoon, he will leave his prime minister, Edouard Philippe, to take charge at Juno Beach. Consequently, most other world leaders are also avoiding the international ceremony, initially expected to mark the high point of the commemorations. Only Justin Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister, and Charles Michel, his Belgian counterpart, will join Mr Philippe.
Louis Mexandeau, 87, a former minister for veterans, said: “We had hoped that France would honour in the appropriate manner the sacrifice of tens of thousands of Allied soldiers.”
A spokesman for Mr Macron denied that he was playing down the significance of the anniversary or over-emphasising the French role. He is to attend an international commemoration in Portsmouth on June 5.
“The role of the Resistance was foremost in the landings in Normandy,” the spokesman said. “The president intends to recall the role of the French in D-Day and the obligations that ensue from that. The French must know what they owe to those forces.”
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