Pope says Ukraine should have courage to negotiate end to war with Russia

Pope Francis has called on Ukraine to have “the courage of the white flag” and negotiate an end to the war against Russia.

The head of the Catholic Church said: “I think that the strongest one is the one who looks at the situation, thinks about the people, has the courage of the white flag, and negotiates.”

And Kyiv, he said, shouldn’t be ashamed to talk to Vladimir Putin’s regime, “before things get worse”, as “the word negotiate is a courageous word”.

“When you see that you are defeated, that things are not going well, you have to have the courage to negotiate. Negotiations are never a surrender.”

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Such a policy would represent a huge change for Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who remains firm on not engaging directly with Moscow on peace talks.

With the war in its third year, Russia’s massive advantage in resources has begun to tell through progress on the battlefield, while Ukraine is running low on ammunition and some of its Western allies are starting to discuss sending troops to the conflict.

The pontiff made the comments during an interview with Swiss broadcaster RSI, which was recorded last month and partially released on Saturday.

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In the face of criticism he was siding with Russia in the conflict, the Vatican was quick to qualify the Pope’s use of the term “white flag”.

Spokesman Matteo Bruni said the interviewer had used the words first, which the Pope then repeated.

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Throughout the war, Pope Francis has tried to maintain the Vatican’s traditional diplomatic neutrality, but that has often been accompanied by apparent sympathy with the Russian rationale for invading Ukraine.

In May 2022, three months after the invasion began, he said that NATO was “barking at Russia’s door” with its eastward expansion.

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The Pope also reminded people that some countries have offered to help the warring parties end the conflict.

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He said: “Today, for example, in the war in Ukraine, many want to mediate.

Turkey has offered itself for this and others. Do not be ashamed to negotiate before things get worse.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – whose NATO-member country has sought to balance its close relations with Ukraine and Russia – offered to host a peace summit between the two countries during a Friday visit from Mr Zelenskyy.

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