French President Emmanuel Macron said, on Sunday, that it is up to Ukraine To decide the time and terms of peace with Russia, he warned that the end of 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 that time.
“Remaining neutral means accepting the world order of the strongest, and I do not agree with this,” Macron said at the conference organized by a Catholic charity with close ties to the Vatican.
There is concern that the support of Ukraine’s allies in Europe It may be eroded by rising energy costs as winter approaches.
Pope Francis is set to conclude a Cry for Peace conference, sponsored by the Congregation of Sant’Egidio, with a speech on Tuesday at the Colosseum.
Throughout the war that began with the Russian invasion Eight months ago, the Pope warned against amassing weapons. But he said Ukraine had the right to defend itself.
While Italy’s new prime minister, far-right leader, Giorgia Meloni, is a staunch supporter of helping Ukraine defend its sovereignty, its coalition allies sympathize with Russia.
In the evening, Meloni and Macron met in private in Rome for talks.
The prime minister’s office said the two agreed to work together “on significant and common challenges at the European level and in respect of mutual national interests”. The statement said the two discussed the need to provide “rapid and joint responses” to the problems of rising energy costs, supporting Ukraine, a difficult economic moment, and managing migrant flows.
Macron, who is from the pro-European centrist, tweeted a picture of the meeting in the evening, writing that “as Europeans, as neighboring countries, as friendly peoples, we must continue all work with Italy.”
“We owe it to our youth and our people to succeed together,” Macron added, saying Sunday’s meeting “is going in that direction.”
The French presidency said both leaders had a “constructive”, “frank” and “open” discussion for more than an hour and that they agreed on the need for regular contacts at all levels in order to move the European agenda forward.
The French president’s visit to Italy includes a meeting with the Pope at the Vatican on Monday.
Macron addressed concerns that any talk of peace could be taken as a sign of a lack of support for Ukraine. “To talk about peace now, to call for peace, as it may seem unbearable to those who are fighting for freedom, seems to be a betrayal” of Ukraine, said the French president.
But he said that peace could not be “captured by Russian power”. “Peace cannot be the perpetuation of the law of the strongest, nor can it be a ceasefire (precisely) for the situation.”
“We want the Ukrainian people to decide at a certain point the peace, the moment, the terms of peace,” Marcon said.
“Peace will be built with (the other), which is today 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 recalled his previous meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the architect of the war.
The French president said Moscow’s aggression was an “exaggerated nationalist product” and a feeling of isolation, noting that the aggression was unjustified.
“They were convinced that there were threats, and that the rest of the world, the Western world, at least, was going to try to destroy Russia,” he said.
Macron warned of growing feelings of nationalism on the European continent, as far-right political forces gained popularity in some countries.
With several religious leaders present at the conference, the president urged them to strengthen “resistance against the folly of war.”
Macron denounced that “the Orthodox religion is being manipulated by Russia”. He did not go into details. But the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill staunchly supported Putin in the war against Ukraine, describing the invasion as part of a “metaphysical” battle against the West.
Pope Francis, well aware of Kirill’s closeness to Putin, had sought, hitherto vain, to meet the patriarch during the war.
Macron said nurturing peace in Europe ultimately depends on “a balance of respect, reciprocity and justice”. He warned of efforts in Europe to “expel the ‘other'” in our society, in search of ‘ethnic purity and religious purity’.
Meloni came to power after an election campaign in which she defended a Christian view of European civilization.
Associated Press writer Sylvie Corbett in Paris contributed to the story.
Follow the AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
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