Time for talks in Ukraine, Italy’s defence minister says

ROME: The time has come for diplomacy to pave the way for peace between Russia and Ukraine, Italy’s defence minister said on Wednesday (Jan 10), adding that firm Western support for Kyiv was important to ensure serious negotiations.

Guido Crosetto told parliament the 2023 Ukrainian counteroffensive had not given the desired result and the military situation had to be viewed with realism.

“From this perspective … it would seem that the time has come for incisive diplomacy, alongside military support, because there are a number of important signals coming from both sides,” Crosetto said.

Russia is gradually showing willingness to negotiate and safeguard its economy, while Ukraine’s stance looks less uncompromising than before, he said.

“All of this must be taken into consideration on the path towards negotiations to stop the conflict and the subsequent process of normalisation of relations, not only of Russia with Ukraine, but also with Western countries,” he said.

Russia has said it is ready for peace talks if Ukraine takes account of “new realities”, meaning an acknowledgement that Russia controls about 17.5 per cent of Ukrainian territory.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has rejected any notion that Moscow is interested in talks, telling the Economist magazine this month that Russia would only agree to a pause in fighting if it needs a break to replenish its army.

“In Ukraine, the domestic front appears to be no longer as united as in the past in supporting President Zelenskiy’s policy, highlighting some divergences in the political discourse,” Crosetto said.

Zelenskyy has embarked on a flurry of international trips in recent weeks, trying to shore up Western support despite warnings that the Ukrainian military is running low on weaponry.

Italy last month passed a decree allowing it to carry on sending war weapons to Ukraine until the end of 2024. The government of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni also agreed to send Kyiv more materials to boost its defences.

Crosetto, a strong supporter of Kyiv and a top member of Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party, reiterated that any peace talks had to clearly recognise Russia’s aggression against Ukraine in February 2022.

“The full territorial integrity and recognised borders of Ukraine remain the goal of the entire international community,” he said.

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