West 'blocked' Russia-Ukraine peace process, says former Israeli PM

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Jerusalem, February 5 (IANS) Russia and Ukraine might have come to a peaceful settlement in April 2022, just over a month after their conflict broke out, but the Western powers blocked it, as per former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, reports said on Sunday.

In an a nearly five-hour-long video interview to Israel's Channel 12 on Saturday, he claimed that his efforts as a middleman came close to succeeding as both Moscow and Kiev appeared to be ready to make concessions and agree to a truce, RT reported.

Bennett, however, said that the negotiations did not succeed because it was "a legitimate decision by the West to keep striking (Russian President Vladimir) Putin� I mean the more aggressive approach".

Asked if the US and its allies "blocked" the peace process between Moscow and Kiev, he said: "Basically, yes. They blocked it."

"I claim there was a good chance of reaching a ceasefire. But I'm not claiming it was the right thing," Bennett said.

Responding to the revelations, Russia's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova termed it "yet another confession" that the West wasn't interested in peace in Ukraine.

According to Bennett, his mediation "was coordinated down to the last detail with the US, France, and Germany". But he said in wake of the fighting, there was no common approach among Western leaders as "(British PM) Boris Johnson adopted the aggressive line; (German Chancellor Olaf) Scholz and (French President Emmanuel) Macron were more pragmatic, and (US President Joe) Biden was both".

Some 17 or 18 drafts of the peace deal between Moscow and Kiev had been prepared with his involvement, the former PM said. Bennet claimed that, among other things, he managed to secure a pledge from Putin that he was "not going to kill" Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who feared for his life. The Russian leader was also ready to retract his demand for the demilitarization of Ukraine, while Zelensky promised to give up on his aspirations to join NATO, he added.

All discussion about peace ended on April 1, when Ukrainian authorities accused Russia of killing civilians in Kiev's suburb of Bucha.