Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas yesterday in the latest of a series of meetings with Middle Eastern leaders. In an effort to expand his country’s role as a peacemaker, Lula also hosted Israeli President Shimon Peres for a four-day visit to Brazil last week.
Peres invited the South American leader to join the Middle East peace process in the first visit by an Israeli president to Brazil in 40 years. Abbas also welcomed Brazil’s participation in negations with Israel. Lula agreed to be an instrument in the peace process and stepped head-first into one of the region’s many contentious issues, with a statement that Brazil “understands that any new settlement in Palestinian territory should immediately be halted.”
Just as Brazil begins to further engage the region, Lula said the United States has no place as a broker in Middle East peace talks. “As long as the United States is trying to negotiate peace, there won’t be peace…” he said and went on to emphasize the need for the United Nations to oversee negotiations.
Also on the Middle Eastern front, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will land in Brazil next week as part of a tour that also includes visits to Bolivia and Venezuela. Much of the international community has condemned Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but Lula has been a vocal proponent of Iran’s right to civilian nuclear energy. It is an open question whether Lula’s controversial visit with the rogue leader could rift U.S.-Brazilian relations or tarnish his reputation in the international community.