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Blinken tells Lula that US disagrees with his Israel remarks

February 21, 2024 at 6:36 pm

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil 21 February, 2024 [Mateus Bonomi/Anadolu Agency]

US top diplomat, Antony Blinken, and President, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, had a “frank exchange” on Wednesday in which the Secretary of State made it clear to Brazil’s leader the US did not agree with his recent remarks about Israel’s war in Gaza, Reuters reports.

Lula is in the middle of a diplomatic spat with Israel over comments in which he likened the war in Gaza to the Nazi genocide during World War Two, leading Israel to say he was not welcome there until he takes back the comments.

“I would say that it was a frank exchange, with the Secretary making clear that we don’t agree with those comments,” said a senior State Department official, who briefed reporters after the meeting in Brasilia.

US officials had previously said they expected Lula and Blinken to have a robust conversation on issues of global security, including the conflict in Gaza that was sparked by attacks in Israel by Hamas on 7 October.

Blinken, whose stepfather was a Holocaust survivor, highlighted US efforts to free hostages still being held by Hamas and get a temporary pause in the conflict, as well as to increase humanitarian aid, according to US officials.

In a separate statement, Brazil’s presidential office said the meeting, which lasted almost two hours, involved discussions on topics ranging from the G20 summit to peace efforts in Gaza and Ukraine.

“President Lula reaffirmed his wish for peace and an end to the conflicts in Ukraine and the Gaza Strip,” the Brazilian government said. “Both agreed on the need for the creation of a Palestinian State.”

Brazil, this week, is hosting a meeting of foreign ministers in Rio de Janeiro as part of its presidency of the G20 group of advanced economies.

Washington, which provides Israel with military and diplomatic support, has urged Israel to protect civilians but defended Israel’s right to target Hamas in Gaza.

Ahead of Blinken’s travel to South America, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Brian Nichols, told reporters that sharing ideas on the conflict in Gaza would be “crucial to the conversation” between Lula and Blinken.

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