Lula meets Blinken after Gaza comments spark diplomatic rift

By Thomson Reuters Feb 21, 2024 | 6:32 AM

By Simon Lewis

BRASILIA (Reuters) – U.S. top diplomat Antony Blinken was meeting President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Wednesday, amid a diplomatic spat after the Brazilian leader likened Israel’s war in Gaza to the Nazi genocide during World War Two.

U.S. officials have said they expect Lula and Secretary of State Blinken to have a robust conversation on issues of global security, including the conflict in Gaza sparked by attacks in southern Israel by Hamas militants on Oct. 7.

Israel said on Monday that Lula is not welcome in Israel until he takes back the comments.

State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said on Tuesday that Washington disagreed with Lula’s comments, but declined to preview what Blinken would say in the meeting on the issue.

Lula’s comments came after he visited the Middle East last week and just ahead of a meeting of foreign ministers in Rio de Janeiro as part of Brazil’s 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 militants in the Gaza strip.

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.

The two would also discuss efforts to promote democracy in Venezuela, a U.S.-Brazil partnership on workers’ rights and cooperation on transitioning to clean energy, Nichols said.

(Reporting by Simon Lewis; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)