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5:45 a.m. ET, September 17, 2023

Pope’s peace envoy returns from Ukraine talks in China

Pope Francis’ Ukraine peace envoy Cardinal Matteo Zuppi returned from a three-day trip to Beijing on Friday, calling on all sides to participate in negotiations that could bring Russia’s war to an end.

When it comes to pursuing peace diplomatically, Zuppi said, the “ball is not only in Ukraine’s court.”

“Everyone must play,” the peace envoy said, according to the Vatican News service. “Ukraine has already engaged and presented its proposals. In reality, everyone must participate in the pursuit of peace.”

During a visit to Russia in June, the cardinal met with the Kremlin’s foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov, the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill and Maria Llova-Belova, the government official at the center of an alleged scheme to forcibly deport thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia.

Earlier in June, Zuppi also traveled to Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian officials. 

The peace envoy said efforts to seek a diplomatic solution to the war in Ukraine have received “considerable attention from the Chinese government.”

Some context: Ukraine and its Western allies have long expressed hope that China and its leader Xi Jinping, a self-described friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, could play a role in pushing Moscow toward peace.
So far, however, its claims of neutrality and a vaguely-worded 12-point position paper on a “political settlement” for the conflict — which failed to acknowledge Russia invaded Ukraine’s territory — have been met with skepticism.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has long expressed concerns about negotiating with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and pointed to his past record of reneging on agreements.

“When you want to have a compromise or a dialogue with somebody, you cannot do it with a liar,” Zelensky told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria in an interview in Kyiv last week.
Russia has blamed Ukraine for not coming to the negotiating table.

CNN’s Nectar Gan and Simone McCarthy contributed reporting to this post.

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