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French President Emmanuel Macron speaks at the international meeting for Peace in Rome, Italy on Sunday. Photo: EPA-EFE

Ukrainians will decide when peace is possible, Macron tells Rome peace summit

  • French President Emmanuel Macron speaks at the opening of a three-day peace conference in Rome
  • France has repeatedly stressed the importance of keeping Western diplomatic channels to Moscow open

Ukrainians will decide when peace is possible, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday at the start of a peace summit in Rome.

Since the beginning of the conflict in February, Macron has differed from other Western leaders in pushing to keep talks open with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

“Let’s not let peace be hostage to Russian power,” Macron said during a speech at the start of the gathering organised by the Community of Sant’Egidio, a Catholic charity based in Rome.

“Peace is possible, but only they (Ukrainians) will decide when they decide it.

“Peace will be built with the other, who is today’s enemy, around a table,” he said at the summit in front of hundreds of political and religious leaders from around the world.

Macron has faced criticism over his repeated calls to negotiate with Putin.

He acknowledged that “calling for peace today can be unbearable for those who fight for their freedom, and give them the feeling of being somehow betrayed”.

Italy’s far-right leader Giorgia Meloni sworn in as premier

But he insisted it was necessary to have the “courage” to want it, even if “imagining peace in times of war” is “the most unthinkable of things”.

But it should not be achieved by adopting “the law of the strongest”.

He justified Western support for Kyiv “so that at some point the Ukrainian people can choose peace … in the terms they will have decided”.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni with French President Emmanuel Macron in Rome, Italy on Sunday. Photo: Filippo Attili / Palazzo Chigi Press Office / Handout via Reuters

Macron arrived in Rome on Sunday afternoon, and met newly appointed Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni in the evening, making him the first foreign leader to hold direct talks with the far-right politician since she took office on Saturday.

The two leaders met away from the media for more than an hour in central Rome, after which Macron vowed in a post on Twitter to work together “with dialogue and ambition”.

Meloni’s post-fascist Brothers of Italy won a historic victory in general elections on September 25.

Her new government is the most far-right in Italy since World War II, and takes power at a time of soaring inflation and an energy crisis linked to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.