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26 Aug, 2023 20:14

Pope's peace plan making progress – Hungary

Hungarian President Katalin Novak met with the pontiff on Friday, almost four months after Kiev rejected his offer of mediation
Pope's peace plan making progress – Hungary

Hungarian President Katalin Novak said on Saturday that Pope Francis is “closer” to proposing a peace plan between Ukraine and Russia than he was when the two last met in Budapest in April.

Novak met with Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky in Kiev on Wednesday, before traveling to the Vatican for an audience with the Pope on Friday. Italian media noted that the meeting was unusually long, but the Holy See revealed little about what was discussed.

“The conversation proceeded with a focus on the war in Ukraine, with special reference to the humanitarian situation and efforts to end the conflict,” read a statement from the Vatican.

Speaking to Italy’s Il Messaggero newspaper, Novak said that after meeting with Pope Francis, she remains “convinced that we are now closer to carrying out the project that we talked about with the Pontiff during his last trip to Budapest four months ago.”

The Pope visited Budapest in April, telling reporters afterwards that he had discussed a secret peace mission with Novak, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, and Metropolitan Hilarion, a representative of the Russian Orthodox Church. "There is a mission in course now but it is not yet public. When it is public, I will reveal it," he said at the time.

Novak did not reveal any further details of the plan to Il Messaggero. “I absolutely agree with Pope Francis even if I'm not in a position to make a public announcement that there is a concrete peace plan,” she said.

The Pope also visited Kiev in April, where he spoke to Ukrainian Prime Minister Denis Shmigal. However, Smighal told reporters that the pair had only discussed a “peace formula” put forward by Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky. This plan, rejected by Moscow, calls on Russia to surrender the formerly Ukrainian territories of Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson, Zaporozhye, and Crimea, to pay reparations to Kiev, and to hand over senior officials for war crimes tribunals.

In a meeting with the Pope in the Vatican in May, Zelensky insisted that his plan was the only one Kiev would entertain. “It was an honor for me to meet His Holiness, but he knows my position: the war is in Ukraine and the [peace] plan must be Ukrainian,” Zelensky said after the discussion.

Russia maintains that it is open to a diplomatic solution to the conflict, but that any peace deal will have to take into account the “new territorial reality”  – that Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson, Zaporozhye, and Crimea will not be ceded back to Ukraine. Furthermore, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said that negotiations will be held “not with Zelensky, who is a puppet in the hands of the West, but directly with his masters.”