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Vatican says Russian aggression must end in Ukraine

By Gavin Jones

Faithful gather to pray for peace in Ukraine, amid Russia's invasion in Ukraine, in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, March 2, 2022. REUTERS/Remo Casilli/File Photo

VATICAN CITY, March 12 (Reuters) - The first condition for any negotiations to end the war in Ukraine is that Russia should halt its aggression, the second in command to Pope Francis said in a newspaper interview on Tuesday.

Ukraine's foreign ministry summoned the papal nuncio on Monday to express "disappointment" with previous comments by Francis that Ukraine should "show the courage of the white flag" and open talks with Russia to end the two-year-old war.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican's secretary of state, told Corriere della Sera daily on Tuesday that the Vatican was pressing for a ceasefire and "first of all it should be the aggressors who stop firing."

Francis' comments, part of an interview recorded last month but made public only on Saturday, triggered very different reactions from NATO and Moscow.

The Kremlin said the pope's call to end the war was "quite understandable", but the boss of the Western military alliance said now was not the time to talk about "surrender."

Attempting to defuse the situation and clarify Francis' remarks, Parolin said the pontiff wanted "to create the conditions for a diplomatic solution in the search for a fair and lasting peace."

To do this, Parolin said it was "obvious" that both sides must come to the negotiating table and the first condition must be "putting an end to the aggression."

Making clear that he considered Russia the aggressor, Parolin said "the war unleashed against Ukraine was not the effect of a natural disaster," but of human choices.

"The same human will that caused this tragedy also has the possibility and the responsibility to take steps to end it and to open the way to a diplomatic solution," he was quoted as saying by the newspaper.

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