D-Day 70th anniversary commemorations have culminated on Ouistreham beach in France. French President Francois Hollande opened the ceremony with world leaders, foreign dignitaries and veterans in attendance.
The 70th anniversary of the Allied troop invasion of Nazi-occupied France was remembered Friday at Ouistreham beach in Normandy.
Opening the ceremony, President Hollande paid tribute to the more than 150,000 troops that parachuted or waded from motor gunboats onto the Normandy beaches on June 6, 1944 during World War II.
He said the gathering of world leaders for the event should help to serve peace and, "there where it is threatened, to find solutions and ways out so that a conflict does not degenerate into war."
"I want to salute the courage of the Germans, victims them too of Nazism, embroiled in a war that was not theirs, that should not have been theirs," he added, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel also among the guests.
Following Hollande's speech, a theatrical re-enactment of key points leading up to the Allied invasion as well as from the remaining time of the war was performed on the beach.
Pivotal day in war
Earlier in the day, while at an anniversary event in nearby Caen, Hollande said, "This day, which began in chaos and fire, would end in blood and tears, tears and pain, tears and joy at the end of 24 hours that changed the world and forever marked Normandy."
The Allied invasion of France was the greatest sea assault in military history and helped change the course of World War II by helping to liberate Europe from Adolf Hitler's Third Reich. Of the 150,000 Allied troops that came ashore that day close to 4,500 were dead by nightfall.
The anniversary commemorations shared the limelight with the crisis in Ukraine as the gathering of so many world leaders offered a series of opportunities for tense diplomatic interactions, with Russian President Vladimir Putin meeting US President Barack Obama for the first time since the recent Ukraine crisis flared up, as well as new Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
On Thursday the leaders of the Group of Seven leading industrialized countries wrapped up talks with a call for de-escalation in fighting between government troops and pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine. They also called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to recognize the outcome of Ukraine's recent presidential election.
hc/rc (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)