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LATIN AMERICA | 21-04-2023 18:29

Brazil's Lula pursues diplomatic comeback in Portugal

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva arrived in Portugal on Friday for his first trip to Europe since taking office in January.

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva arrived in Portugal on Friday for his first trip to Europe since taking office in January which will also include a stop in Spain.

"The trip is part of the relaunch of Brazil's diplomatic relations with its main partners," the Brazilian president's office said.

It comes on the heels of Lula's visit to China, the United States, and its neighbours Argentina and Uruguay, the office added.

The veteran leftist returned to the presidency vowing "Brazil is back" on the international stage after four years of relative isolation under his far-right predecessor Jair Bolsonaro.

Seeking to revive Brazil's role as a deal-maker and go-between, he has vowed to cultivate friendly ties with all countries, and resisted taking sides with either the United States and Europe, on one hand, or China and Russia, on the other.

But the 77-year-old ex-metalworker, who previously led Brazil from 2003 to 2010, could face some diplomatic awkwardness after recent comments chiding the European Union and United States over the Ukraine conflict.

Lula landed in Lisbon on Friday morning but his official programem only begins on Saturday with meetings with Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo and Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa.

About a dozen bilateral agreements are expected to be signed during his visit, mainly in the areas of energy, science, education and tourism.

Lula, who was named to Time magazine's list of the world's most influential people last week, will on Monday meet with business leaders in the northern city of Porto.

He then heads to Spain on Tuesday and Wednesday, where he will meet with King Felipe VI and Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.

The trip, however, has been marked by a row over his comments about Ukraine.

Visiting China last week, Lula said Washington should stop "encouraging" the war, and that the United States and European Union "need to start talking about peace".

He has also angered Ukraine in recent days by saying it shares the blame for the conflict and suggesting it should agree to give up the Crimea peninsula, which Russia forcefully annexed in 2014 in a prelude to its invasion of Ukraine last year.

After a flurry of criticism from Europe, Ukraine and the United States – including the White House, which accused him of "parroting Russian and Chinese propaganda" – Lula dialled back what some saw as his anti-Western tone, saying Tuesday that Brazil "condemned" Russia's invasion.

Lula on Monday held talks in Brasilia with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who "thanked" Brazil for a solution to the conflict, and "its excellent understanding of the genesis of this situation".

In the face of the criticism from the West, Lula changed his tone on Tuesday, condemning Russia's "violation of Ukraine's territorial integrity".

 

– TIMES/AFP

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