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VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis met on Monday with the new Russian ambassador to the Vatican, who said they discussed the pontiff's efforts to bring peace to Ukraine.

Ivan Soltanovsky, a long-time diplomat, presented his formal accreditation to the 86-year-old head of the Catholic Church, according to a Vatican statement.

They "discussed, in particular, the mission of the papal special envoy to Ukraine, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, aimed at solving a number of humanitarian issues", Soltanovsky told Russia's official TASS news agency.

"They agreed to continue an honest and open dialogue with the Holy See, traditionally built on the basis of mutual respect," the diplomat added.

Pope says Ukraine war fuelled not just by ‘Russian empire’

Earlier this year the pope appointed Zuppi, the head of Italy's Bishops' Conference, to lead a peace mission to try to stop the war in Ukraine.

Zuppi has since visited Kyiv, Moscow, Beijing and Washington, where he met with US President Joe Biden.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov suggested last week the cardinal would return to Moscow.

During a roundtable event, he said, according to TASS: "The efforts with the Vatican, whose envoy is going to come again, are continuing.

"We are ready to meet with everyone, we are ready to talk to everyone."

Pope Francis regularly calls for peace in Ukraine, although in the early months after Russia invaded its neighbour in February 2022 he drew criticism for not naming Moscow as the aggressor.

He paid a rare personal visit to the Russian embassy to the Holy See the day after the invasion to "express his concern for the war", the Vatican said at the time.

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