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Ratas meets with Pope Francis in the Vatican

Pope Francis and Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) at the Vatican on Friday. Feb. 9, 2018.
Pope Francis and Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) at the Vatican on Friday. Feb. 9, 2018. Source: (Government Office)

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) met with Pope Francis in the Vatican on Friday, where the two discussed humanitarian crises caused by acts of war as well as how to find peaceful solutions to these conflicts.

News of deadly attacks in Syria, Ukraine and other conflict zones are still a daily phenomenon, but it is important not to surrender, but rather keep seeking political solutions to conflicts as well as opportunities to improve people's standard of living, Ratas said according to a government press release.

"In addition to our contributions to the Minsk agreements, sanctions, and the Geneva process, we must also remember the people who have lost their loved ones and are forced to flee from their homes," he continued. "We as fellow men must keep our hearts open and reach out a helping hand."

Acts of war in Syria, which the pope has previously named the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II, have continued for seven years. The armed conflict that has devastated Ukraine, which is nearing the four-year mark, has affected nearly five million people, 3.8 million of whom require humanitarian aid; there are nearly 1.6 internally displaced persons in Ukraine.

Estonia has allocated a total of €7 million worth of humanitarian aid to Syria and will contribute an additional €1.3 million euros in 2018-2019. From 2015-2017, Estonia accepted 155 refugees from Syria. Since 2014, Estonia has also supported victims of the Ukrainian conflict with more than €5 million.

The pope has only visited Estonia once before, in 1993. During their meeting on Friday, Ratas confirmed to Pope Francis that the people and government of Estonia are looking forward to his visit this fall, which will coincide with the Estonian centennial. The prime minister also expressed his gratitude over the fact that the Holy See never recognized the Soviet occupation of Estonia, neither de facto nor de jure.

Ratas and Pope Francis also discussed the climate and environmental protection, demographic trends, and the importance of education.

While in Vatican City, Ratas also met with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, with whom he discussed relations of Russia, among other topics.

On Friday morning, Ratas met with Italian colleague Paolo Gentiloni in Rome. They discussed the priorities of the next long-term EU budget, issues related to the elections of the European Parliament, and immigration-related topics. Ratas also recognized Italy's participation in the Baltic Air Policing mission as well as the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCD COE).

Editor: Aili Vahtla

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