Brazil’s president here for 1st time

Israel to take issue with Latin American country’s close ties with Iran.

March 15, 2010 02:35
3 minute read.
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

Brazilian President Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva arrived Sunday for the first-ever visit of a Brazilian president, but – along with warm words from his hosts about the “historic” visit – he is likely to hear criticism of Brazil’s close ties with Iran, and the country’s negative voting record against Israel in various international forums.

Lula, who will be here for two days before going on to Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, has said that he wanted to see Brazil play a more active role in the Middle East diplomatic process.

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“This is an important visit,” a source in the Prime Minister’s Office said. “It is a chance to strengthen the relationship with Brazil in all fields – economic, trade, security, and cultural. And in addition to expanding bilateral cooperation, we will talk of expanding political and diplomatic contacts as well.”

Lula, who was invited by President Shimon Peres when that latter visited Brazil in November, will – in addition to meeting Peres –  hold meetings with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and opposition head Tzipi Livni. He is to address the Knesset on Monday afternoon.

One diplomatic source said that Israel would impress upon Lula, whose country is increasingly taking a leadership role in international affairs, that along with leadership comes responsibility.

Lula made clear to US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton when she visited there earlier in the month that Brazil was opposed to Iranian sanctions at this time, and said Iran should be given more time to show that it is willing to cooperate.

At the time he told Clinton that it was “not prudent to push Iran into a corner. It is prudent to make it so that Iran continues to negotiate.”

Brazil – one of 10 temporary members of the 15-member UN Security Council – is one of four countries, alongside China, Turkey and Lebanon, who are expected to either abstain or vote against UN Security Council sanctions.

A negative vote by China, one of the five permanent members along with the US, Russia, Britain and France – would veto the move. Nine votes are needed for sanctions to pass.

Lula, who hosted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in November, shortly after hosting Peres, is scheduled to visit Teheran in May.

He has advised Ahmadinejad to cease denying the Holocaust, saying there was no point in denying historical fact.

When Lula hosted Peres in Brasilia in November, he expressed the desire to play an influential role in the Middle East peace process and said that he would come to Israel to listen to Israeli and Palestinian viewpoints.

Peres will officially welcome Lula in a state ceremony at Beit Hanassi on Monday.

The two presidents will then proceed to the King David Hotel where they will each address a business conference aimed at promoting joint ventures and enhancing bilateral trade.

The Brazilian president is accompanied on his visit by a large delegation that includes three government ministers, 70 business leaders and 40 journalists from Brazil’s major media outlets.

A firm believer in dialogue and negotiation, Lula made clear to Peres in November that while Brazil condemned all acts of terrorism perpetrated under any pretext, it was convinced that peace and reconciliation can only come about through dialogue and negotiation.

He angered Peres by saying he wanted to talk with Hamas, explaining that there was no way to get past the stalemate if one didn’t talk to all sides in the conflict. It is not known at this stage whether he will meet any Hamas representatives when he visits the PA.

In interviews that he gave prior to leaving for Israel, Lula said it was time for new players to try to mediate between Israel and the Palestinians, as the more veteran players have failed to make headway.

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