Francois Hollande is unlikely to go hungry on Thursday night after it was revealed the French President will have two dinners in one evening in an attempt to keep Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin apart.
Hollande is hosting 18 heads of state this week to mark the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy. Presidents Obama and Putin are among those attending the commemorations but, with tensions over Russia’s actions in Ukraine escalating tensions between the two superpowers, there are no plans for direct talks between the two leaders.
The French President will be the first Western leader to meet individually with Putin since pro-European protests overthrew Ukraine's pro-Moscow president, Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula, and the US and EU imposed sanctions over Russia's actions in Ukraine.
French and Russian diplomats in Paris said that Hollande will host two consecutive dinners Thursday. Obama comes first; then two hours later it's Putin's turn, they said, speaking on condition of anonymity to be able to discuss the plans before they are publicly formalized.
“As host of many different countries, he's having a range of separate meetings,” Obama's foreign policy adviser Ben Rhodes said. “But there will not be a trilateral dinner that evening between the three of them. It's just a one-on-one.”
D-Day landings 70th anniversary: 20 facts about 'Operation Overlord'
D-Day landings 70th anniversary: 20 facts about 'Operation Overlord'
1/20 Troops from the 48th Royal Marines at Saint-Aubin-sur-mer on Juno Beach, Normandy, France, during the D-Day landings, 1944
Many soldiers landing on the beaches were wearing pyjamas under their battle dress. Lieutenant Herbert Jalland, of the Durham Light Infantry, said he and his battalion at Gold Beach wore them to stop backpacks chafing.
2/20 American craft of all styles pictured at Omaha Beach, Normandy, during the first stages of the Allied invasion in 1944
Writer J.D. Salinger was one of thousands of US soldiers landing at Omaha Beach. As well as provisions and weapons, he was carrying six chapters of his unfinished novel Catcher in the Rye in his backpack.
3/20 Royal Marine Commandos moving off the Normandy Beaches during the advance inland from "Sword" beach. The five beaches were known by their codenames, Sword, Gold, Juno, Omaha and Utah.
2,700 soldiers from the UK were either killed, wounded, went missing or were captured during the D-Day landings. Meanwhile, in the Houses of Commons, MPs debated changing the term "charladies" to "cleaners".
4/20 Royal Marine Commandos moving off the Normandy Beaches during the advance inland from "Sword" beach on 6 June 1944
During the drop at the first liberated village, Sainte-Mere-Eglise, American paratrooper John Steele's parachute got caught on the church spire. For two hours, Steele hung there playing dead before being taken prisoner by the Germans. Today, a dummy paratrooper hangs from the spire in his honour.
5/20 U.S. troops disembark from landing crafts during D-Day 06 June 1944 after Allied forces stormed the Normandy beaches.
Lieutenant James Doohan of the Winnipeg Rifles was saved by his silver cigarette case when he was shot in the chest on D-Day. It did not stop the shot to his hand that caused him to lose a finger. Doohan went on to playScotty in Star Trek. While on camera, he always tried to hide his injured hand.
6/20 Aerial view taken 6 June 1944 of the Allied Naval forces engaged in the Overlord operation of landing while Allied forces storm the Normandy beaches on D-Day
While the term “D-Day” is most closely linked to the Normandy landings, it in fact means the day on which a military operation begins – allowing the date for an operation to change without military planners having to change all the dates in their plan. The day before D-Day was D-1 and the day after was D+1.
7/20 British troops on their way to Normandy to take part in the D-Day landings
D-Day was originally planned for June 5 1944, but it was delayed by stormy weather. Thanks to intelligence operations to misdirect the Germans, even Hitler believed the "real" invasion was to come at Pas-de-Calais down the coast and the Normandy landings were merely a cover.
8/20 American troops stand by with stores on Omaha Beach after the D-day landings
Scottish meteorologist Group Captain James Stagg was appointed chief meteorological adviser to Eisenhower and persuaded him to delay the launch to allow for better weather. This decision saved the lives of thousands of soldiers although rough seas still hampered landings and the RAF struggled to bomb German fortifications through cloud cover.
9/20 British soldiers joke as they read a tourist guide about France aboard a landing craft while Allied forces storm the Normandy beaches on D-Day
As Allied troops pushed inland, the BBC broadcasts a message from Gen Eisenhower to the people of Normandy: 'The lives of many of you depend on the speed with which you obey. Leave your towns at once – stay off the roads – go on foot and take nothing with you that is difficult to carry. Do not gather in groups which may be mistaken for enemy troops.'
10/20 U.S. Army paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division drive a captured German Kubelwagen on D-Day at the junction of Rue Holgate and RN13 in Carentan, France, 1944
In order to maintain the secrecy of the plan and build-up to D-Day, strategists used a series of code names and acronyms. "D-Day" meant the date of the operation, while "H-Hour" was the time. "Bolero" signified the build-up in Britain. "Operation Overlord" was the the name for the overall invasion plan, and "Operation Neptune" was the name of the seaborne invasion. "Ham and Jam" were the signals indicating the bridges at Benouville and Ranville were secured by Allied forces.
11/20 The body of a German soldier lies in the main square of Place Du Marche after the town was taken by U.S. troops who landed at nearby Omaha Beach in Trevieres, France, 1944
The first news report of the D-Day landings came from Gustav, an RAF homing pigeon released by the Reuters news agency correspondent Montague Taylor. Four pigeons, including Gustav, and one dog - an Alsatian called Brian - received the PDSA Dickin Medal for their life-saving actions.
12/20 U.S. Army troops make a battle plan in a farmyard amid cattle, which were killed by artillery bursts, near the D-Day landing zone of Utah Beach in Les Dunes de Varreville, France, 1944
Andree Auvray, now 88, was a fearful and heavily pregnant 18-year-old before the D-day landings. In an attempt to escape being killed by a bomb, she and her new husband slept in a ditch at her farm while keeping a small suitcase of baby clothes in case she gave birth in the trench. She gave birth 13 days later, in her dining room and her farm was transformed into a makeshift hospital for wounded civilians.
13/20 British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (L) walking with General Bernard Law Montgomery near the Rhine river in Germany during an advance by Allied troops on 23 March 1945.
Winston Churchill did not tell Parliament of the events in Normandy until midday on 6 June 1944. 'What a plan!' he said. 'This vast operation is undoubtedly the most complicated and difficult that has ever taken place.'
14/20 German Marshal Erwin Rommel (R) inspecting the 'Atlantic wall' in France, built to repel the landing of British and American forces during World War II.
On the morning of D-Day, Rommel was blissfully unaware of the invasion and was absent from his HQ at La Roche-Guyon, near Paris. He had returned home to Herrlingen in south-west Germany to celebrate his wife Lucie’s 50th birthday. He was later linked to a conspiracy to assassinate Hitler and forced to commit suicide.
15/20 Admiral Carleton F. Bryant (L) and USS Texas Commander Charles Baker being given the shell that struck the battleship.
During the Battle of Cherbourg, the shell crashed through the port bow directly below the and entered the stateroom of Warrant Officer M.A. Clark, but failed to explode. It was later disarmed and brought aboard as a lucky charm.
16/20 An couple watch a Canadian soldier with a bulldozer working in the ruins of a house in the rue de Bayeux on 10 July 1944. The church towers in the background have survived the Allied bombing intact in Caen, France
The devastating raids on Caen and other towns and villages in Normandy are still problematic for the French. Some feel the suffering of civilians has not been properly taken into account. Around 3,000 died on D-Day.
17/20 A large number of German prisoners on Juno Beach of Bernieres sur Mer guarded by British soldiers from the 2nd Army.
Richard Dimbleby, the father of BBC journalists David and Jonathan, led the team of BBC war correspondents who reported on D-Day and the liberation of north-west Europe. He was the corporation's first war reporter and the first correspondent to enter Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
18/20 German prisoners are gathered and an American flag is deployed for signalling on Omaha Beach.
One of the flagship vessels of the naval operation was HMS Belfast. The vibrations of the ship’s gunfire during D-Day were so powerful that they cracked the crew’s toilets. She is now one of only three remaining vessels from the bombardment fleet.
19/20 A French armoured column passing through the small French town of St Mere Eglise on D-Day, gets a warm welcome from the inhabitants, 1944
The exact timings of the landings were decided using tide-prediction machines. By 1944, British mathematician Arthur Thomas Doodson had identified the exact time the landings should take place (H-Hour) and that D-Day should fall between 5 and 7 June.
20/20 A group of American soldiers stand at the village fountain in Sainte-Marie-du-Mont on 12 June 1944.
News of D-Day raised hopes for a swift end to the Second World War. When word reached POW camp Colditz, via an illegal radio hidden in an attic, prisoner Cenek Chaloupka vowed that if the war wasn’t over by December he’d run round the courtyard naked. On Christmas Eve 1944, Chaloupka ran round it in sub-zero temperatures. Twice.
One of the meals might take place outside the presidential palace, a French diplomatic official said. That would reduce the likelihood that Obama and Putin might run into each other. A Russian diplomatic official said the schedule is being carefully measured to ensure that each visiting president gets sufficient time with the French leader.
France, with substantial trade, banking and energy ties to Russia, has been more cautious on sanctions than the US or some European countries. Hollande defended his decision to keep Putin on the invitation list for the D-Day ceremonies.
Despite differences over Ukraine, Hollande said last month, “I will never forget that the Russian people gave millions of lives” in the Second World War fighting against the Nazis.
It’s not the first time Obama has been thrust into the same vicinity as a foe at an international gathering. The US President shook hands with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez at a regional summit in 2009. He also exchanged a handshake and brief pleasantries with Cuban leader Raul Castro last year while both attended a memorial service in South Africa for Nelson Mandela.
The event commemorates the massive invasion of Normandy beaches that helped turn the Second World War against Hitler. France is framing it as a reminder of the importance of European peace and unity.