Liege: World leaders on Monday commemorated the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I by warning of lessons to be learned in the face of today`s many crises, including Ukraine.
"Peace has to be a shared goal," Belgium`s King Philippe told leaders gathered in his country`s eastern city of Liege. "World War I reminds us to reflect on our responsibility... To bring people together."
Leaders from across Europe -- from Britain and Ireland to Germany, Austria, Bulgaria and Malta -- attended the commemoration at the Allied War Memorial of Cointe, a tower complex overlooking the city alongside a weathered grey-stone church painted with white doves for the occasion.
French President Francois Hollande recalled Germany`s invasion of neutral Belgium in early August 1914 that turned what had been a localised Balkans war into a global conflagration, raising current day parallels.
"How can we remain neutral today when a people not far from Europe is fighting for their rights?" Hollande said, clearly referring to the Ukraine crisis.
"How can we remain neutral when a civilian airliner is brought down... When there is conflict in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza?"
"We cannot remain neutral... Europe must live up to its responsibilities with the United Nations," he told an audience that included Britain`s Prince William and wife Catherine, heads of state and representatives of some 80 countries.
German President Joachim Gauck said Berlin had launched the war based only on "military logic," when Europe "must actively champion freedom, the rule of law, awareness, tolerance, justice and humanity".
Prince William recalled the German execution of a British nurse, Edith Cavell, who just before her death in 1915 said: "I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone."
"It took another terrible war to learn the truth of her words and even today we continue to learn that lesson," the prince said.
"The events in Ukraine testify to the fact that instability continues to stalk our continent," he added.
The leaders gathered in the industrial town of Liege because dogged fighting there had barred the way to invading German troops in the early days of August 1914.
Liege`s fierce resistance derailed Berlin`s plans for a quick victory, while Germany`s invasion of Belgium formally brought Britain into the war, as interlocking alliances that were meant to preserve the peace plunged Europe into the abyss.