Ukraine will decide on time and terms of peace with Russia

Rome (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron said Sunday that it was up to Ukraine to decide when and on what terms for peace with Russia, and he warned that an end to the war “cannot be the consecration of the law of the strongest”.

Speaking at the opening of a three-day peace conference in Rome, Macron said the international community will be there when the Ukrainian government chooses when.

“Remaining neutral would mean accepting the world order of the fittest, and I don’t agree with that,” Macron said at the conference organized by a Catholic charity with close ties to the Vatican.

There are fears that support from Ukraine’s allies in Europe will be eroded due to soaring energy costs as winter approaches.

Pope Francis is due to conclude the Cry for Peace conference, sponsored by the community of Sant’Egidio, with a speech Tuesday at the Colosseum.

Throughout the war that began with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine eight months ago, the pope has warned against a buildup of armaments. But he said Ukraine had the right to defend itself.

While Italy’s new prime minister, far-right leader Giorgia Meloni, is a strong supporter of helping Ukraine defend its sovereignty, his coalition allies have pro-Russian sympathies.

Italian public broadcaster Rai reported that Meloni and Macron met on Sunday evening in Rome.

The French president’s visit to Italy includes an audience with the pope at the Vatican on Monday.

Macron expressed concern that any talk of peace could be seen as a sign of lack of support for Ukraine. “To speak of peace now, to call for peace, may seem unbearable for those who fight for freedom, it looks like a betrayal” of Ukraine, declared the French leader.

But peace cannot be “captured by Russian power”, he said. “Peace cannot be the consecration of the law of the strongest, nor a ceasefire (marking) the state of things.”

“We want the Ukrainian people to decide at a certain time, peace, time and conditions for peace,” Marcon said.

“Peace will be built with the other (party), which today is the enemy, around a table, and the international community will be there.”

Italy’s main populist opposition leader, former prime minister Giuseppe Conte, said last week that Italy should not send more weapons to Ukraine.

Macron spoke about his past meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the architect of war.

Moscow’s aggression is “the fruit of exaggerated nationalism” and a sense of isolation, the French leader said, noting that the aggression was unjustified.

“They were convinced that there were threats, that the rest of the world, at least the western world, would have tried to destroy Russia,” he said.

Macron warned of growing feelings of nationalism on the European continent, where far-right political forces have gained popularity in some countries.

With many religious leaders present at the conference, the president urged them to foster “resistance against the madness of war”.

Macron denounced that “the Orthodox religion is manipulated by Russia”. He did not specify. But Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill fervently backed Putin in the war on Ukraine, calling the invasion part of a “metaphysical” battle against the West.

Aware of Kirill’s closeness to Putin, Pope Francis has sought, so far unsuccessfully, to meet with the patriarch during the war.

Ultimately, Macron said, cultivating peace in Europe depends on “the balance of respect, reciprocity, justice.” He warned of efforts in Europe to “drive out ‘the other’ in our society” in a quest for “ethnic purity, religious purity”.

Meloni came to power after an election campaign in which she defended a Christian vision of European civilization.


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