Pope Francis has urged parties in the Ukraine war to "have the courage to negotiate", and do so "before things get worse", in an interview broadcast Saturday by Swiss television.

The 87-year-old pontiff was asked by the public broadcaster RTS about a debate within Ukraine on whether to surrender to Russia's invasion.

"I believe that the strongest are those who see the situation, think about the people, and have the courage to raise the white flag and negotiate," he said in the interview, which the Vatican said was conducted in early February.

He added: "That word negotiate is a brave word. When you see that you are defeated, that things are not working out, to have the courage to negotiate."

He said people might feel ashamed but asked how many lives were being lost.

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"Today, for example with the war in Ukraine, there are many who want to act as mediators. Turkey for example," he said.

"Don't be ashamed to negotiate before things get worse."

Speaking about conflict in general, including the Hamas-Israel war, he added: "Negotiations are never a surrender. It is the courage not to carry a country to suicide."

The Vatican's director of communications, Matteo Bruni, later issued a statement seeking to clarify the pope's words.

Francis had used the term white flag "to indicate a cessation of hostilities, a truce reached with the courage of negotiation", Bruni said in a statement published by Vatican News.

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He repeated the pontiff's call for a "diplomatic solution in search of a justing and lasting peace" in what Francis calls the "martyred" Ukraine.

Francis was also asked in the interview about the Israel-Hamas war, where he laid blame on both sides.

"War is made by two, not one. The irresponsible ones are these two who wage war," he told the broadcaster.

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