Controversy stirred as Brazilian Prime Minister Lula comments on Ukraine conflict during Lisbon visit
During his inaugural European tour since returning to office in January, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has found himself at odds with Europe once again, this time over the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
The veteran left-winger is seeking to revive diplomatic ties with his country after four years of relative isolation under his far-right predecessor Jair Bolsonaro, but tensions have emerged with the West over Ukraine.
On Saturday, Lula again called for a “negotiated” settlement between Kiev and Moscow, more than a year after the Russian invasion.
The Brazilian leader has angered Ukraine by saying Kiev shares the blame for the war and has not joined Western countries in imposing sanctions on Moscow or supplying ammunition to Kiev.
“While my government condemns the violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, we support a negotiated political solution to the conflict,” Lula told reporters after meeting Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Souza in Lisbon.
“We urgently need a group of countries to sit around a table with both Ukraine and Russia,” Lula said.
“Brazil does not want to participate in this war. Brazil wants peace.”
“President Lula believes that the path to a just and lasting peace means making negotiations a priority,” said Rebelo de Souza.
“Portugal has a different position. We believe that for the path to peace to become bearable, Ukraine must have the right to respond to the invasion.”
Portugal is a founding member of NATO and was among the first European countries to supply tanks to Kiev.
Lula, a 77-year-old former metalworker who served two terms as president from 2003 to 2010, has resisted taking sides on the conflict, neither with Europe and the United States nor with China and Russia.
He alarmed him earlier this month by saying Washington should stop “encouraging” war by supplying weapons to Kiev.
He also said that the United States and the European Union “need to start talking about peace.
“If you don’t talk about peace, you’re contributing to the war,” Lula insisted on Saturday.
Envoy to meet Zelensky
After a flurry of criticism from Europe, Kiev and the White House accusing him of “echoing Russian and Chinese propaganda,” Lula said on Tuesday that Brazil “condemns” the Russian invasion.
On Friday, he announced that he would send senior foreign policy adviser Cesar Amorim to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kiev, after representatives of the Ukrainian community in Portugal met the Brazilian delegation in Lisbon.
The Brazilian government affirmed that “Brazil is determined to contribute to promoting dialogue and peace and ending this conflict.”
Rebelo de Souza’s comments on Saturday were the second in days aimed at Lula, who was recently named to Time magazine’s list of the most influential people in the world.
“Brazil’s position at the United Nations has always been the same – on the side of Portugal, the United States and NATO,” the Portuguese head of state said earlier this week.
“If Brazil changes its position, it is none of Portugal’s business. We will stick to our opinions and we will disagree.”
Despite their failure against Ukraine, Lula and Portuguese Socialist Prime Minister Antonio Costa hailed the first summit between the two countries in seven years.
Lula celebrated a “special visit marking the resumption of our bilateral dialogue” after dozens of agreements were signed in areas including energy, education and tourism cooperation. He is scheduled to address the Portuguese parliament on Tuesday.
The Brazilian leader’s trip to former colonial power Portugal will be followed by a two-day visit to Spain to meet with King Felipe VI and Prime Minister Sanchez.
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