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Borrell blasts Pope over Ukraine remarks

The pontiff suggested that Kiev should “find the courage” to end the conflict with Moscow through talks

Comments by Pope Francis about launching peace talks to end the Ukraine conflict are out of line and untimely, the EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, has said.

Borrell’s remark comes after the head of the Catholic Church stated in an interview with Swiss broadcaster RSI last weekend that it would be a display of courage from Kiev if it raised a “white flag” and entered into peace negotiations with Russia.

“The Holy Pope entered a garden where no one invited him… But calling on Ukraine to surrender is more than a wish for peace,” the diplomat said during an interview on Thursday with Spanish public radio RNE.

Borrell went on to state that he believes “that now is not the moment when it is necessary to offer Ukraine to surrender. On the contrary, this is the moment when we need to continue to help.” 

The EU’s top diplomat is the latest official to weigh in on the Pope’s words, which sparked outrage in Kiev and beyond. Numerous European officials have said they took remarks as a call for Ukraine to surrender to Russia.

In a statement on Sunday, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, without specifically mentioning Pope Francis, stated that the religious figures who are trying to help Ukraine are “together with the 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.” 

Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba, meanwhile, responded to the pontiff’s claims about the need to be able to accept defeat and “show courage and negotiate” by insisting that a strong person always “stands on the side of good” and stressing that Ukraine’s flag is the only one by which the country “lives, dies and will prevail.” 

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Pope urges Ukraine to negotiate

“We shall never raise any other flags,” Kuleba declared.

Several of Kiev’s foreign backers have also slammed the Pope’s statement.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin said that it shared the pontiff’s desire for peace negotiations between Moscow and Kiev and that Moscow has made repeated calls for talks.

Even after negotiations between Moscow and Kiev broke down in the spring of 2022, Russia has repeatedly stressed that it remains open to meaningful peace talks and has blamed the lack of diplomatic breakthroughs on the Ukrainian authorities.

Kiev and its Western backers, however, have insisted that an agreement can only be reached on Ukraine’s terms and have been promoting the so-called peace formula proposed by Zelensky, which calls for the non-negotiable return of all former Ukrainian territories, as well as the withdrawal of all Russian troops without preconditions, and an international tribunal for Russian leaders.

 

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