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World

Lula, Blinken meet amid Israel row

Published February 21, 2024
Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (L) gives the thumbs up next to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken before a meeting at Planalto Palace in Brasilia on February 21, 2024. Photo: AFP
Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (L) gives the thumbs up next to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken before a meeting at Planalto Palace in Brasilia on February 21, 2024. Photo: AFP

BRASÍLIA: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Wednesday amid a diplomatic crisis between Brazil and Israel over the war in Gaza.

Blinken, who arrived Tuesday night in the Brazilian capital, met with veteran leftist Lula at the presidential palace for around 45 minutes.

It threatened to be a tense meeting, after Lula controversially compared US ally Israel’s military offensive in the Gaza Strip to the Holocaust.

Speaking Sunday, Lula, 78, called Israel’s campaign a “genocide” and compared it to “when Hitler decided to kill the Jews.”

China disappointed over US veto on Israel-Hamas ceasefire vote

Israel reacted furiously, declaring Lula “persona non grata.”

The row escalated Tuesday, as Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz called Lula’s remarks “delusional” and Brazilian counterpart Mauro Vieira fired back that Katz was “lying.”

The United States, which on Tuesday vetoed a UN Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza for the third time, rejects accusations Israel is guilty of “genocide.”

The United States and Brazil are also split over Russia’s war in Ukraine, and on relations with Venezuela.

No press conference was held after Lula and Blinken’s meeting.

The pair were seated around a table chatting on the US presidential election when journalists were briefly allowed in the room.

Blinken remarked how “polarized” the United States was, with primary season well under way for the November polls.

It is Blinken’s first trip to Brazil since taking office as the top US diplomat three years ago.

US relations with Latin America’s biggest economy warmed when Lula returned to power in January 2023, replacing Donald Trump ally Jair Bolsonaro.

Lula visited Washington a month after taking office to meet with President Joe Biden.

The two veteran politicians found common cause on prioritizing climate change, labor rights and democratic values.

But independent-minded Lula, a leading voice for the global south, has pushed back against the US on issues including Gaza and Ukraine.

Blinken will travel later Wednesday to Rio de Janeiro for a G20 foreign ministers meeting, where his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, is also expected.

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