Russian war of aggression: Pope calls for negotiations in Ukraine war

Pope Francis has called for negotiations in view of the more than two-year war in Ukraine.

Russian war of aggression: Pope calls for negotiations in Ukraine war

Pope Francis has called for negotiations in view of the more than two-year war in Ukraine. "When you see that you are defeated, that things are not going well, you have to have the courage to negotiate," said the head of the Catholic Church in an interview on Swiss television published in advance at the weekend. Without directly naming either of the two parties to the conflict, Russia or Ukraine, he added: "Don't be ashamed to negotiate before things get worse." Elsewhere in the interview he said: "Negotiations are never a surrender."

The pontiff referred to offers of mediation from various sides, for example from Turkey. The Vatican itself has also been trying to mediate between Moscow and Kiev since the beginning of the Russian war of aggression on the neighboring country in February 2022 - so far without success. Pope spokesman Matteo Bruni contradicted reports that the Pope had called on Ukraine to surrender in the interview. According to the public broadcaster RSI, the conversation took place at the beginning of February.

"Courage of the White Flag"

In it, Francis is also asked about demands from Ukraine for “the courage to surrender, to raise the white flag,” which others see as legitimizing the stronger side. To this the Pope answers in general: "It's a question of perspective. But I think that the stronger is the one who recognizes the situation, who thinks about the people, who has the courage of the white flag to negotiate."

Elsewhere, the interview also discusses possible mediation by the Vatican in the Gaza war, which has been going on since October last year. The head of more than 1.4 billion Catholics said he was available: "I have written a letter to the Jews of Israel to reflect on this situation. Negotiations are never a surrender. It is the courage not to give up the country to commit suicide." He adds: "A war is fought with two people, not alone. The irresponsible ones are the two who fight it."

Angry reactions from Ukraine

In Ukraine, the term "white flag" used by the Pope was understood as a call to surrender and triggered angry reactions. "It seems strange that the Pope does not call for the defense of Ukraine, does not condemn Russia as an aggressor that is killing tens of thousands of people," wrote former MP and Deputy Interior Minister Anton Herashchenko on the X network (formerly Twitter).

The former Ukrainian ambassador to Austria, Olexander Scherba, called the Pope a “believer of little faith” using a word from the Bible. Kiev officials did not comment. Ukraine refuses to negotiate as long as Russia does not release the occupied territories. From previous Pope statements, Ukrainians have the feeling that Francis has more understanding for Russia than for their attacked country.

Interview with video excerpts

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