Ukraine’s president has suggested that future peace talks with Russia could take place in Jerusalem.
Speaking at a news briefing on Saturday, Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukrainian and Russian negotiating teams had started discussing concrete topics rather than exchanging ultimatums.
He said the West should be more involved in negotiations to end the war but welcomed efforts by Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to mediate and said he had suggested to Bennett holding talks in Jerusalem.
“Of course, Israel has its interests, strategy to protect its citizens. We understand all of it,” said Zelensky.
“The prime minister of Israel, Mr. Bennett is trying to find a way of holding talks. And we are grateful for this. We are grateful for his efforts, so that sooner or later we will begin to have talks with Russia, possibly in Jerusalem. That’s the right place to find peace. If possible.”
Zelensky confirmed that some 1,300 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed in fighting since the start of the Russian invasion. He said it would take Russia to carpet-bomb the Ukrainian capital Kyiv and kill its residents to take the city. He added: “If that is their goal, let them come.”
Zelensky said: “If they carry out carpet bombings and wipe off the historic memory of the entire region, the history of Kyivan Rus, the history of Europe, they could enter Kyiv.”
In a tweet later in the day he posted that he had spoken to Bennett and “talked about Russian aggression and the prospects for peace talks.” He added, “We must stop repressions against civilians.”
Referring to peace efforts led by Israel, Zelensky said, “We have a positive stance on the mediation efforts… we believe that he can play an important role, because Israel is a special country with a lot of history and a lot of parallels, and Israel also underwent a large wave of migration of Jews from Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, and all of Europe.”
Zelensky, who is Jewish, noted that Israel has a scattered population of Ukrainians and Russians and that Ukrainian Jews were among Israel’s founding fathers, adding: “I believe it’s not right to meet in Belarus, Russia or Ukraine, these are not places where we can find any understanding to stop the war. Maybe Israel could be such a country, especially Jerusalem.”
Initial rounds of talks between Ukraine and Russia have taken place on Ukraine’s border with Belarus, after the nation declined to send diplomats into Belarus itself.
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: TIMES OF ISRAEL