Brazilian president seeks role as Mideast peace mediator
Brazilian president seek
By GREER FAY CASHMAN JPOST CORRESPONDENT IN RIO
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva wants to play an influential role in the Middle East peace process. Da Silva told President Shimon Peres on Wednesday that he intends to come to Israel in March to listen to Israeli and Palestinian viewpoints and then continue on to Jordan and Syria.
In matters of foreign policy, da Silva is a firm believer in dialogue and negotiation, and at a news conference following his protracted meeting with Peres, he made it clear that even though Brazil condemns all acts of terrorism perpetrated under any pretext, regardless of who perpetrates them, it is simultaneously convinced that peace and reconciliation could only come about through dialogue and negotiation.
He emphasized this point during his conversation with Peres, who had conveyed to him Israel's displeasure with da Silva's invitation of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Brazil. Peres cited Ahmadinejad's call for the destruction of Israel, Iran's development of a nuclear arsenal and Ahmadinejad's consistent denial of the Holocaust as reasons for Ahmadinejad to be an unwelcome guest. Peres underscored that at the same that Iran was producing enriched uranium, which Ahmadinejad says will be used for peaceful purposes, it is investing millions of dollars in long range missiles.
Da Silva replied that while he understood Israel's pain, it was Brazil's policy to talk to everyone - even to those who oppose peace. If they were isolated, he said, they would become wild like dogs tied to a fence.
During his meeting with Peres, da Silva also stated his intention of talking to Hamas. Peres bridled at this and said that under no circumstances could he see a valid reason for talking to Hamas because it was not a political organization, but rather consisted of religious fanatics who were not interested in dialogue, negotiation or peace.
At the news conference, Peres welcomed the Brazilian contribution to the peace process and declared that there was nothing more urgent for the people of the Middle East than peace.
"There is nothing that justifies bloodshed," he said.
He also explained in response to a question that while Israel was ready to make painful concessions for peace, it would not repeat the mistake of the disengagement from Gaza and withdraw from land without guarantees of peace from the other side. Israel would not again run the risk of having rockets fired at its citizens from across the border, he said.
When asked about Brazil's purchase of 14 Israeli unmanned planes to monitor its borders in advance of and during the 2016 Olympic Games, da Silva said that the transaction had not been completed, though well-informed Brazilians said that it was a done deal and that Brazil had already paid Israel Aircraft Industries an advance of $36 million.
The two presidents witnessed the signing of three agreements: an extradition treaty, a tourism agreement and a memorandum of cooperation in the areas of technology and co-production of movies.
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