BRUSSELS, June 24, 2018 (News Wires) — France and Belgium are urging UNESCO to designate scores of their World War I memorials and cemeteries as World Heritage sites as the centennial remembrance of the 1914-1918 war nears its end.
Both sides of the Franco-Belgian border, where much of the fiercest fighting of World War I took place, are dotted with monuments to the dead who fought on the decisive Western Front battlefields like Verdun in France and Passchendaele in Belgium.
The war between a group led by Germany against France, the British Commonwealth and the United States saw some 3 million people die around the front line, which stretched from the Belgian coast to the Swiss border. More than 2 million men are buried in the region, hailing from almost 80 present-day nations.
"These sites force us to draw lessons from the past in order to construct a more peaceful future," said Minister-President Geert Bourgeois from Belgium's Flemish region, which was particularly hard hit during the war.
France and Belgium are seeking recognition for 139 sites. UNESCO's World Heritage committee will assess their request and 29 other nominations for inclusion on the list during a meeting in Bahrain that starts on Sunday and runs until July 4.
Even though the scenes of dank trenches and pockmarked battlefields where nerve gas could kill thousands a day are iconic, France and Belgium are centering on the dead and the cemeteries and memorials instead. They stress they do not want to glorify war.
"Immediately after the war, these were mainly places for mourning, for pilgrimages of the ones who had lost their loved ones. But quite quickly they became much more than that," said Luc Vandael, project manager for the Flemish region.
"They became an appeal for peace and reconciliation. The slogan 'no more wars' is quickly associated with those sites. So yes, there is something larger than just being a cemetery," Vandael said.
Now people make pilgrimages from across the world to remember those who gave their lives in western Europe. The appeal of the sites has spiked during the four years of centennial remembrances that will end with the marking of the November 11, 1918, armistice.
The Menin Gate in western Belgium is one of the most iconic memorials. It is etched with the names of almost 54,000 soldiers killed in the months-long battles around Ypres, many of whose remains were never recovered or did not receive proper burials.
"Through these sites, the nations and people involved can accommodate a shared part of their history. And this is truly a heritage of the world," said Bourgeois.
PARIS, June 22, 2018 (MENA) – French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is scheduled to embark on a foreign tour that will take him to Egypt, Greece, and Cyprus on June 28-30, the French Foreign Ministry said Friday.
Le Drian is expected to hold talks with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry on a raft of regional and international issues, topped by the Libyan and Syrian files and the Middle East peace process.
During his stay in Egypt, Le Drian will discuss with the Egyptian side means of boosting bilateral ties, particularly in the field of fighting terrorism.
In April, the French top diplomat had paid an official visit to Egypt, during which he had talks with President Abdel Fattah El Sisi.
MOSCOW, June 22, 2018 (News Wires) - France might not have impressed in their first two World Cup matches, but they have already secured their last-16 spot and will use their last Group C game against Denmark to improve before the knockout phase.
Les Bleus needed a penalty, given by the video assistant referee, and goal-line technology to beat Australia 2-1 in their opening game, and they were shaken up by Peru on Thursday but won 1-0 thanks to a Kylian Mbappe goal.
They need to avoid defeat against Denmark on Tuesday to top the group.
With Argentina struggling in group D, Les Bleus could face Jorge Sampaoli's side in the last 16, but winning against Denmark is their only priority.
"Our mindset is to win this game, to finish what we've started, to improve," said striker Olivier Giroud, whose deflected shot led to Mbappe's goal against Peru.
Giroud believes France have to be more efficient, offensively and defensively, after Les Bleus failed to sparkle in their first two matches.
"We need to be more efficient in attack, and in defence. We have to improve and find that 'killer instinct'.
"But let's not forget that Peru were a very good team, who had conceded only three goals in their last matches, who beat Croatia, Uruguay, Iceland. We suffered but to me, 1-0 is the best possible result."
After their opening game, some France players had questioned Deschamps' tactics, saying they had no clear idea of what they were supposed to do, but the game plan appeared to be clearer against Peru as Les Bleus defended well.
"With Antoine Griezmann, we had been tasked to block the Peru centre backs, with Antoine also having to be in the zone of their number 6," Giroud explained.
"Everything was very clear and well oiled, we had worked on it at training and were ready to be aggressive and determined, which is paramount in modern football."
France know that they can rely on midfielder N'Golo Kante, who was pivotal against Peru, winning 13 tackles and creating space for his teammates.
"He's got 15 lungs. Football is so much easier with players like him," said Paul Pogba.
YEKATERINBURG, June 21, 2018 (News Wires) - France moved back above Denmark to the top of Group C with an unconvincing 1-0 win over Peru.
After their fortuitous 2-1 win over Australia in the opening game, France had hoped to make a statement in Ekaterinburg but struggled to impress once again.
Their winning goal came when Kylian Mbappé tapped in Olivier Giroud’s deflected shot, as the Paris Saint-Germain forward became the youngest Frenchman to score at a World Cup finals.
Peru pushed for an equaliser late on but ultimately could do little to avoid slipping to a second consecutive 1-0 defeat.
YEKATERINBURG, June 21, 2018 (News Wires) - Thousands of red-shirted Peru supporters streamed through the streets of Yekaterinburg on Thursday, outnumbering France's by more than seven to one and looking to striker Paolo Guerrero to bring them an upset victory in their World Cup Group C clash.
Having lost 1-0 to Denmark in their first match, Peru's huge contingent of travelling fans is desperate for a win against one of the tournament favourites.
"It will be 3-0 to Peru because we have Guerrero," said Robert Amanqui Quispe.
Juan Carlos Rioja, from Lima, said he was confident of victory because of France's subdued performance in their first match against Australia, even though they won the game 2-1.
"What we expect is obviously to win. We expect France to play similar to their first game, which is not their best performance, so we can make it happen," he said.
Rainy Yekaterinburg produced one of its many June downpours less than three hours before kickoff, but rival fans engaged in a friendly competition to outchant each other as they headed across town on foot towards the stadium.
A spokeswoman for the city administration, Viktoria Mkrtchyan said fans had been arriving in Yekaterinburg throughout the day and authorities were expecting in total around 15 000 from Peru and 2 000 from France.
That compared with just over 6 500 Uruguayans and some 5 000 Egyptians for the first game in the city last week.
Many Peruvians had arrived without tickets and were expected to pack the fan zone, located away from the stadium in a city park, she said.
Appearing in the World Cup finals for the first time in 36 years, Peru has drawn phenomenal support despite its population of just 31 million and distance from the host country.
Fifa said before the tournament that 43 583 tickets had been sold to Peru fans, making them the seventh largest contingent from any country.
"We are really hopeful," said Peru fan Ivan Santanyana. "We must win the game today because you know what happened last game. We played really well, we missed a lot of chances and now there is no other thing to do. We need to win this."
MOSCOW, June 20, 2018 (News Wires) - French striker Antoine Griezmann has been passed fit for Thursday's World Cup Group C match with Peru as coach Didier Deschamps seeks to give his side a sharper attacking edge.
France, among the tournament favourites, opened with a sluggish 2-1 win over Australia.
"What we can see is that there were elements that were lacking and we did have difficulties at the front. That is very clear, and I did say so at the end of the match," Deschamps told reporters on the eve of the game in Yekaterinburg.
"The aim here is to make sure we do better tomorrow."
Deschamps said Griezmann, who opened the scoring with a penalty against Australia, was fully fit.
"He's well. There was a little concern with one of his ankles, which was a little bit swollen after the match. He wasn't at this best during the match, he had heavy legs," said the coach.
Dynamic midfielder N'Golo Kante also struggled in the first game: "This meant we weren't able to have enough dynamism in attack, and not enough efficiency."
Deschamps did not rule out starting with Olivier Giroud, even if his comments on the striker were ambivalent.
"The problem with Olivier is very often when he plays, he plays in his own register, he's not in the same register as the others. But when he's not there, we realise how useful he is," Deschamps said.
The 49-year-old, a member of France's 1998 World Cup winning team, said Peru should not be underestimated.
"They have excellent players up front, they have some very fast players," he said, singling out Paolo Guerrero and Jefferson Farfan.