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Merkel, Macron Unveil Memorial Amid World War I Centenary Celebrations

U.S. President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron meet at Elysee presidential palace. Paris, France, November 10, 2018.

The leaders of France and Germany have marked the centenary of the armistice that ended World War I by unveiling a new message of peace.

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on November 10 visited a site north of Paris where the defeated Germans and victorious Allies put an end to World War I.

Merkel and Macron unveiled a somber memorial lauding Franco-German reconciliation "in the service of Europe and of peace."

It was fixed on the base of a monument that still bears an older, more triumphalist message boasting of victory over "the criminal pride of the German empire."

The two leaders also climbed aboard a replica of the train wagon where the armistice was signed a century ago on November 11, 1918.

More than 60 heads of state and government were expected in Paris on November 10-11 for the events, which will culminate at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the exact moment of the war-ending armistice – 11 minutes after the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

Around 9 million soldiers and about 6 million civilians died during the 1914-18 war, which involved some 40 countries. The war rewrote the map of Europe, leading to the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman, and Russian empires.

Earlier, Macron and U.S. President Donald Trump attempted to smooth over tensions during a meeting in Paris.

Earlier, Trump described as "very insulting" a proposal by Macron to create a European defense force.

Macron's office said the U.S. president misunderstood his proposal, which was aimed at reducing Europe's reliance on the United States for defense.

After the November 10 meeting, Macron said it's "unfair to have European security today being assured just by the United States."

Trump stressed that the United States wants to "absolutely be there" to help defend Europe, but renewed calls for NATO members to increase defense spending.

"We want to help Europe, but it has to be fair," Trump said. "Right now, the burden-sharing has been largely on the United States."

Macron said he shared Trump's assessment.

"We need a much better burden sharing with NATO and that's why I believe my proposal for a European defense [is] utterly consistent with that," the French president said.

Based on reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters