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Revising the Pope’s “white flag” statement in Ukraine negotiations, the Vatican emphasizes that Russia is the “aggressor”

Days after Roman Catholic Pope Francis sparked controversy by calling on Ukraine to have the “courage to raise a white flag” to negotiate an end to the war with Russia, the Vatican on Tuesday (March 12) revised the pontiff’s statement and instead appealed to Moscow First to stop its “unjustified” invasion of Ukraine.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, second only to the Pope, stressed in an interview with Italy’s Corriere della Sera that Russia “should cease fire first.” He called Russia the “aggressor” and said the war in Ukraine was “unjustified.”

“The war against Ukraine is not the result of an uncontrollable natural disaster but of human factors alone. The same human will that caused this tragedy is also likely to be accompanied by the responsibility to take steps to end it and pave the way for a diplomatic solution,” the US “Politics” news website quoted Parolin as saying.

Francis recently said in an interview with Swiss Italian-language Radio and Television (RSI) that “those who have the courage to negotiate with a white flag are stronger.” This statement immediately aroused controversy because it was similar to Moscow’s position. Parolin’s latest statement is seen as a major revision and clarification of the Pope’s statement.

The suggestion that the pope was “raising a white flag” particularly triggered a backlash in Kiev. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy issued a statement emphasizing that it was Russia that “must cease the war and let the war end.” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said, “The colors of our flag are yellow and blue. We live, die, and win under this flag. We will never raise any other flag. .”

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Moscow acknowledged the pope’s remarks, saying it was “quite understandable” that he called for an end to the war, but accused NATO’s boss of believing it was not the time “to talk about surrender.”

Ukraine’s allies expressed dissatisfaction with the pope’s words. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said she “could not understand” the pope’s remarks. Latvian President Edgars Rinkevics said, “One cannot surrender in the face of evil, one must fight it and defeat it so that evil will raise the white flag and surrender.”

“Now is not the time to talk about Ukrainians surrendering. That would be a tragedy for Ukrainians.” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also expressed his views on this. “That would be dangerous for all of us because then the lesson that Moscow learns is that when they use military force to kill thousands of people when they invade another country, they can get what they want.”

In an interview with Corriere della Sera, Parolin tried to clarify the misunderstandings and controversies caused by the pope’s remarks, emphasizing that the pope only wanted to “create conditions for a diplomatic solution to find a just and lasting peace.”

Parolin said that in order to achieve this goal, “obviously” the two sides need to sit at the negotiating table, but the first condition is “an end to the aggression.”

In an interview, Parolin compared Russia’s aggression in Ukraine to the Israel-Kazakhstan war, emphasizing that both “broke the boundaries of any acceptability” and caused “reactions from several countries.”

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