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Ukraine President Zelenskyy says Jerusalem ‘right place for peace’ talks with Russia

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy suggested Jerusalem could host peace talks between him and Vladimir Putin, his latest attempt to push for a meeting with his Russian counterpart.

Zelenskyy thanked Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett for efforts to broker talks in a video released on Telegram late on Sunday.

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“We are grateful... for his every effort. So sooner or later we could start the conversation with Russia. Perhaps in Jerusalem,” said Zelenskyy.

“This is the right place for finding peace. If this is possible.”

Bennett has held regular phone calls with Zelenskyy and Putin, and also had a three-hour meeting with Putin at the Kremlin on March 5.

He has walked a careful diplomatic line since Russia launched its invasion on February 24.

Stressing Israel’s strong ties to both Moscow and Kyiv, he has sought to preserve delicate security cooperation with Russia, which has troops in Syria, across Israel’s northern border.

Demonstrators watch Zelenskiy’s speech during a protest in support of Ukraine following Russia’s invasion, as it is broadcasted to the Knesset, Israel's parliament and projected at Habima Square in Tel Aviv, Israel, on March 20, 2022. (Reuters)
Demonstrators watch Zelenskiy’s speech during a protest in support of Ukraine following Russia’s invasion, as it is broadcasted to the Knesset, Israel's parliament and projected at Habima Square in Tel Aviv, Israel, on March 20, 2022. (Reuters)

“Of course, Israel has its own interests and defense strategy for their own citizens. We understand all of this,” Zelenskyy said.

Earlier on Sunday, the Ukrainian president, who is Jewish, had spoken to Israeli lawmakers via videolink, the latest in a virtual international tour of foreign legislatures that has included the United States’ Congress, Britain’s House of Commons, and Germany’s Bundestag.

“Russian propagandists have a tough task today,” he said in his Telegram video.

“Because for the first time in history, a president of a foreign nation, spoke on video recording in the Knesset and to the whole nation of Israel... the president of Ukraine, who is accused of Nazism in Russia.”

Putin has called Ukraine’s leaders “neo-Nazis” and said the “denazification” of Ukraine is one of the reasons for launching the invasion.

In his address to the Knesset, Zelenskyy urged Israel to abandon its effort to maintain neutrality.

“We can mediate between states but not between good and evil,” he said.

He at several points compared Russian aggression to the Holocaust, drawing immediate criticism from some officials in Israel.

Israel has provided humanitarian assistance to Ukraine, but so far ruled out sending military hardware to the embattled country.

The Jewish state has also not joined Western sanctions against Russia.

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