Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday said he picked the Vatican as a good place to hold direct crisis talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
Asked by the Italian newspaper La Repubblica whether Rome or the Vatican would be suitable for a presidential summit to resolve the Ukraine conflict, Zelensky said: “Yes, the Vatican could be the optimal place in every respect.’’
The Holy See as well as the Pope are moral authorities, the 43-year-old stressed in the interview.
“A mediator with such authority could bring the confidence that has been missing so far in our attempts to reach an agreement,’’ the Ukrainian president said about a potential role for Pope Francis as well as the Vatican. “Of course, the meeting point should create trust on both sides,’’ he added.
Russian as well as Ukrainian troop deployments had recently sparked international concern that fighting in the conflict zone of eastern Ukraine could escalate again.
Earlier on April 23, Russia began withdrawing additional troops deployed to the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, which it had annexed in 2014, according to official, Ukraine welcomed this.
Earlier this week, Zelensky told journalists that he had instructed the head of his office to contact Moscow for a meeting.
While Zelensky had suggested a meeting with Putin in the conflict area, among other things, the Kremlin said that the Ukrainian head of state was welcome to come to Moscow.
For almost seven years, parts of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions on the Russian border have been controlled by rebels loyal to Moscow.
According to UN estimates, more than 13,000 people have been killed in the separatist conflict.