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Kiev rejects pope’s ‘white flag’ appeal

The Vatican should avoid repeating the mistakes of the past when talking about the conflict in Ukraine, the foreign minister said

Pope Francis was wrong to suggest that Kiev should restart negotiations with Moscow, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba has said. The pontiff ruffled some feathers in Ukraine this week by speaking about the importance of having “the courage of the white flag.”

“When it comes to the white flag, we know this Vatican’s strategy from the first half of the twentieth century,” Kuleba wrote on X (formerly Twitter), apparently referring to the policy of neutrality pursued by Pope Pius XII during World War II.

Kuleba urged the Vatican to “avoid repeating the mistakes of the past and to support Ukraine and its people.” 

“Our flag is a yellow and blue one. This is the flag by which we live, die, and prevail. We shall never raise any other flags,” the minister wrote.

In an interview with Swiss broadcaster RSI published on Saturday, the pontiff urged to have “the courage of the white flag,” and suggested that the parties should restart peace talks.

Pope’s spokesman Matteo Bruni later clarified that the term “white flag” was first used by the interviewer, and that Francis had stressed that “negotiations are never a surrender.” Bruni added that the pope hopes that “a little bit of humanity can be found that allows the creation of the conditions for a diplomatic solution in search of a just and lasting peace.”

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FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis
Pope urges Ukraine to negotiate

Nevertheless, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky repudiated the pope’s message in his video address on Sunday night. Without mentioning Francis by name, Zelensky said that the church in Ukraine is “together with people, not two and a half thousand kilometers away somewhere, virtually mediating between someone who wants to live and someone who wants to destroy you.”

Some of Kiev’s most vocal backers have also condemned Francis as well. “One must not capitulate in face of evil, one must fight it and defeat it, so that the evil raises the white flag and capitulates,” Latvian President Edgars Rinkevics wrote on X.

Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski wrote, “How about, for balance, encouraging Putin to have the courage to withdraw his army from Ukraine?”

Meaningful peace talks between Russia and Ukraine broke down in the spring of 2022, with both sides accusing each other of making unrealistic demands.

Russian President Vladimir Putin subsequently said the Ukrainian delegation had initially agreed with some of Russia’s terms during the talks in Istanbul in March 2022, but then abruptly reneged on the deal.

March 11, 2024 at 04:43AM

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