June 6th, 2014 will see a large-scale commemoration of the D-Day landings in Normandy, 70 years to the day after the operation that began the liberation of France from Nazi occupation.
To mark the historic occasion, French President François Hollande is set to personally invite 16 heads of state from around the world, among them US President Barack Obama, Queen Elizabeth II and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, according to French newspaper Le Parisien on Wednesday.
Ceremonies will be held at various key points along the coast of Normandy, “to mark France’s eternal acknowledgement of its allies,” according to Veterans Minister Kader Arif.
According to diplomats cited by Le Parisien, Russian President Vladimir Putin will also be invited to mark the anniversary, along with leaders from Canada, Poland and Norway, among others.
A visit to Normandy by Queen Elizabeth would be her first in honour of the D-Day landings, since 2004, the 60th anniversary.
In what looks set to be a particularly special commemoration, the British monarch will be invited to attend a ceremony on Sword Beach at Ouistreham, a stretch of coastline where British infantry landed on a section codenamed the “Queen Sector”, at dawn on June 6th, 1944.
For his part, Obama is expected to attend events at Pointe du Hoc, a cliff face famously conquered by American Army Rangers, between Omaha and Utah beaches, on D-Day.
The Canadian contingent will be invited to Juno Beach, to mark the landing and assault there by the Third Canadian Infantry Division.
German Chancellor Merkel will also take part in commemorations, following in the footsteps of her predecessor Gerhard Schröder, who joined then French President Jacques Chirac at a memorial in Caen in 2004.
Hollande’s government appears to be pulling out all the stops in 2014, in what will be a busy year for historic anniversaries.
Earlier this month the French president announced plans for an “unprecedented assembly” of world leaders in France, to mark the centenary of the beginning of World War I
Hollande also revealed that Germany's President, Joachim Gauck, will come to France for a ceremony on August 3rd, 2014, which will be exactly a century after the two countries declared war on each other.