Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on his first-ever tour of Latin America proposed a free trade agreement with Mercosur after meeting Wednesday in Brasilia with his Brazilian counterpart Lula da Silva and giving a conference at the Foreign Ministry seat in Itamaraty Palace.
In his speech Assad proposed “closer economic ties with Brazil and its Mercosur associates” underlining the importance of links between Damascus and the strong Syrian communities in Brazil and Argentina.
Assad also supported one of Brazil’s main foreign policy goals: the world needs Brazil in the UN Security Council because it can help establish a new and more just international order.
Lula da Silva countered by stating that Brazil supports ending the obstacles preventing Syria's admission to the World Trade Organization and again offered to mediate in the Middle East.
The Brazilian president backed Syria's demand that Israel return the Golan Heights it occupied after the Six Day War of 1967, and said Damascus should be included in any peace initiative in the Middle East between Israel and the Palestinians.
Lula da Silva said that Syria “is an indispensable partner in the search for peace” and that “all eyes are looking toward Damascus to find a word of authority and moderation”.
“The conflict transcends regional dimensions” and its resolution “is everyone’s responsibility” the Brazilian leader said. He rejected “the thesis that the Middle East is destined for conflict and that its sons are condemned to live in the irrationality of war”.
“The incident with the humanitarian flotilla, attacked (by Israel) in international waters, shows that now is the time to end the blockade of Gaza,” Lula added.
In keeping with the importance he accorded to Syria in the peace process, Lula da Silva expressed to Assad his readiness to participate in negotiations with “all actors” in the conflict, as he had in his latest meetings with Israeli President Shimon Peres, Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, who recently visited Brazil.
Assad also expressed support for the efforts of Brazil and Turkey to broker a diplomatic solution to the international tensions over Iran's nuclear program. Under a May accord, Iran agreed to send some of its low-enriched uranium to Turkey in return for higher grade nuclear fuel from Russia and France for a medical research reactor.
Assad described the Brazil-Turkey plan, which was rejected when the United Nations imposed new sanctions on Tehran earlier this month, as fundamental to any peaceful solution.
Following a bilateral private meeting in Brasilia both leaders signed a series of cooperation agreements on health, education and extradition proceedings.
After sharing lunch with Lula da Silva, Assad met with Brazilian lawmakers and travelled to Sao Paulo, where on Thursday he will engage in various activities with the local Syrian community.
Brasilia is the third stop on Assad’s first Latin American tour, a trip that has already taken him to Caracas and Havana and which will conclude on Friday in Buenos Aires.
In Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina the Syrian communities are very strong economically and politically influential. The Sao Paulo mega polis is considered the second most populated Syrian city after Damascus.