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12 Mar, 2024 10:47

NATO head rejects Pope’s ‘white flag’ appeal to Ukraine

The pontiff suggested that Kiev should “find the courage” to end the conflict with Moscow through talks
NATO head rejects Pope’s ‘white flag’ appeal to Ukraine

Ukraine needs more military aid before it can start negotiating a peace deal with Russia, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said. His comments came after Pope Francis told Swiss broadcaster RSI that Kiev should have “the courage of the white flag” and begin talks with Moscow.

Speaking with Reuters on Monday, Stoltenberg rejected the idea, saying more military support for Ukraine is the way to achieve a negotiated peaceful solution.

The secretary-general added that “what happens around a negotiating table is inextricably linked to the strength on the battlefield.”

“It’s not the time to talk about surrender by the Ukrainians. That will be a tragedy for the Ukrainians. It will also be dangerous for all of us,” he claimed.

Kiev also rejected Pope Francis’ remarks. In a statement on Sunday, which did not directly refer to the pontiff’s interview but came out shortly after the transcript was released, President Vladimir Zelensky said that religious figures trying to help Ukraine should not be “virtually mediating between someone who wants to live and someone who wants to destroy you.”

Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba later insisted that Ukraine “shall never raise any other flags” than its national flag.

On Monday, Kiev summoned the papal ambassador to Ukraine, Archbishop Visvaldas Kulbokas, to discuss the Pope’s comments. Kiev expressed its disappointment with the remarks, which are “legalizing the right of the strongest” and “encouraging [Russia] to neglect the norms of the international law,” the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Kiev insists that a peaceful settlement to the conflict with Moscow can only be achieved on its terms, including the non-negotiable return of all former Ukrainian territories, the withdrawal of all Russian troops, and an international tribunal for Russia’s leadership. Zelensky also recently said that Russia will not be invited to peace talks which are expected to be held by its Western backers in the near future.

Russia called the idea of negotiations without its own participation laughable.” Moscow welcomed Pope Francis’ appeal for peace talks. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday that the Pope’s ideas echo those expressed by Russia, which considers negotiations “the preferred way” of ending the conflict.