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5 Feb, 2024 13:52

Russia should get security guarantees – ex-Italian PM

Securing peace should take precedence over Kiev’s bid to join the EU, Giuseppe Conte has argued
Russia should get security guarantees – ex-Italian PM

A peaceful settlement of the Ukraine crisis can only be achieved if Kiev and its foreign backers respect the interests of Russia-leaning citizens under its governance, and if Moscow is offered security guarantees, former Prime Minister of Italy Giuseppe Conte has argued, in an interview published on Monday.

The politician, who leads the opposition left-wing Five Star Movement (M5S), has been advocating diplomacy to end the fighting in Ukraine and opposes arming that country, since long-simmering tensions between Kiev and Moscow turned to full conflict in early 2022.

Speaking to daily Corriere della Sera, Conte mentioned this position while discussing why his party isn’t part of the European Greens group in the European Parliament. Talks on M5S possibly joining have been suspended ahead of the EU general elections in June, he noted.

”We should aim to guarantee the sovereignty and integrity of [Ukraine] by protecting the interests of its Russophile populations and by offering Russia a lasting prospect of peace and security,” Conte stated.

While M5S supports Kiev’s bid to eventually join the EU, the accession process should be suspended in favor of the peace process, the former premier added.

Kiev and Moscow negotiated a draft truce in the early weeks of the conflict, in Istanbul, but that proposal was then rejected by the Ukrainian government, which instead declared an intention to fight Russia with Western help.

The failed agreement would make Ukraine a neutral state in exchange for international security guarantees. Kiev’s top negotiator in Istanbul, where the draft deal was agreed, has since confirmed that Ukraine turned its back on the document after then-UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson told it to fight instead.

A decree issued by President Vladimir Zelensky bans officials from any negotiations with Russia as long as Russian President Vladimir Putin remains in office. Bilateral contacts are now reportedly limited to a handful of issues, such as prisoner exchanges.

Conte served as the leader of the Italian cabinet from 2018 to 2021, when he was forced to resign amid a government crisis. M5S currently has the second-largest opposition faction in both chambers of the national parliament, after the Democratic Party. The interview with Corriere della Sera was focused on relations between the two political forces and whether they would join forces to secure seats in the European Parliament this year.

While Italy has followed the US lead in providing military assistance to Ukraine, officials in Rome have expressed some skepticism about the policy. Defense Minister Guido Crosetto told Italian MPs last month that the government was pursuing a “dual track” strategy of keeping the arms flowing while encouraging diplomacy.

Moscow has long insisted that Western nations were risking an escalation of the conflict by delivering weapons that, either way, were incapable of changing the eventual outcome. Russia perceives the hostilities to be a proxy war against it waged by Washington and has claimed that the US has forced Kiev to continue, against Ukraine’s own interests.

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