Lula, Blinken meet amid Israel 'Gaza Holocaust' row

Lula, Blinken meet amid Israel 'Gaza Holocaust' row
Lula da Silva has met with Anthony Blinken amid a row with Israel after the Brazilian president likened the genocide in Gaza to the Holocaust.
2 min read
21 February, 2024
The US is Israel's biggest ally but has been trying to maintain good relations with major trading partner Brazil [Getty]

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

Blinken said it had been a "very, very good meeting," in brief comments to journalists as he left the sit-down with veteran leftist Lula at the presidential palace in Brasilia.

"The United States and Brazil are doing so many important things together," Blinken said after the more than 90-minute meeting. "It is a very important partnership."

It had threatened to be a tense encounter, after Lula controversially compared US ally Israel's unprecedented assault 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."

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 also on Tuesday vetoed a UN Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza for the third time, rejects the ICJ's ruling that Israel is plausibly carrying out genocide in the Palestinian territory.

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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 about the US presidential election when journalists were briefly allowed in the room.

Blinken remarked how "polarized" the United States is politically, with primary season under way for the November polls.

It is Blinken's first trip to Brazil since his nomination three years ago.

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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.

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

Blinken is due later Wednesday at a G20 foreign ministers meeting in Rio de Janeiro, where his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, will also be present.