France's President Emmanuel Macron welcomes Joe Biden at a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris

Paris (AFP) - French President Emmanuel Macron welcomed Joe Biden at Paris’ Arc de Triomphe at the start of the US leader’s state visit to France on Saturday as the two nations seek to tighten ties.

Biden has been in France since Wednesday and took part in this week’s commemorations marking the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings that changed the course of World War II.

During a welcome ceremony in Paris, Macron and Biden laid a wreath and rekindled the flame on the tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

The two leaders were also due to walk down the Champs-Elysees, accompanied by the Republican Guard.

Later Saturday Biden was due to meet Macron for talks at the Elysee Palace followed by a state banquet given in his honour, with Ukraine’s battle against the Russian invasion the dominant topic.

In a speech on a clifftop in northern France that was the scene of a bloody confrontation between US troops and occupying Germans on June 6, 1944, Biden Friday had drawn parallels between D-Day and the present.

The president is set to face his Republican rival and predecessor Donald Trump later this year in presidential elections that commentators predict will subject US democracy to a severe test.

Biden invoked the ghosts of the heroes of the assault on the Pointe du Hoc, a clifftop promontory where German bunkers were attacked by US troops. No surviving veterans remain alive.

“They (the veterans) are summoning us,” said Biden.

“They ask us, what will we do? They’re not asking us to scale these cliffs. They’re asking us to stay true to what America stands for.”

Biden’s speech also came under the shadow of Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, which has left war again raging in Europe eight decades after the end of World War II.

There are also fears Trump will scale down US participation in international alliances like NATO and lessen support for Ukraine if he wins.

“American democracy asks the hardest of things: to believe that we’re a part of something bigger than ourselves. So democracy begins with each of us,” Biden said.

- ‘They did their job’ -

Biden, a Democrat, was unmistakably invoking the memory of a famous speech given by late Republican president Ronald Reagan at the Normandy clifftop in 1984 where he saluted the American “boys” of the Pointe du Hoc.

“The rangers who scaled this cliff did not know they would change the world but they did,” said Biden.

Biden summoned up the ghosts of the heroes of the assault on the Pointe du Hoc

“They came, they did their job, they fulfilled their mission… They were part of something greater than themselves.”

President Volodymyr Zelensky had earlier Friday urged the West to do more to achieve a fair peace as Ukraine battles the Russian invasion, telling Biden that Kyiv is counting on “shoulder-to-shoulder” support.

Meeting Zelensky in Paris, Biden pledged his support for Ukraine and announced another $225 million in aid to Kyiv.

Zelensky thanked him for the “tremendous support”, comparing it to the United States coming to Europe’s aid during World War II.

- ‘Camp of pacifists’ -

Kyiv has been pushing Europe to increase military assistance, with Russia gaining the upper hand on the battlefield in recent months, in particular in Ukraine’s eastern Kharkiv region.

Macron promised warplanes for Ukraine

After his own talks with Zelensky in Paris on Friday evening, Macron said he wanted to “finalise” the creation of a coalition of military instructors to train Ukrainian troops in the coming days.

He said he hoped for Kyiv’s EU accession talks to start “by the end of the month”.

Macron also lashed out at what he called a “camp of pacifists” and the “spirit of defeat” over Ukraine’s fight against Russia, vowing Ukrainian resistance would not end with capitulation.