Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva Friday landed in Lisbon for the first stop of his European tour seeking to overcome the isolation the South American country sank into under Jair Bolsonaro. However, it was not all cheers and smiles following his remarks regarding Ukraine and Russia, whom he both blamed for starting the current war.
The trip is part of the reactivation of Brazil's diplomatic relations with its main partners, as was already the case with the visit to China ten days ago, after the United States, Argentina, and Uruguay at the beginning of this government, the Brazilian presidency underlined in a statement.
Lula, 77, is to meet Saturday with Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa and Socialist Prime Minister Antonio Costa. A dozen bilateral agreements are expected to be signed, particularly in the fields of energy, science, education, and tourism.
Before flying to Madrid on Tuesday, the South American leader will deliver a speech before the Portuguese Parliament during a session prior to the commemorations of the 49th anniversary of the Carnation Revolution, which put an end to 48 years of dictatorship and 13 years of colonial wars in Africa.
Lula's recent trip to China, with a stopover in the United Arab Emirates, was marked by his comments on the conflict in Ukraine, a thorny issue that will also be addressed during his interview with the Portuguese head of government. Last Saturday Lula generated controversy during his stay in Beijing by calling on the United States to stop encouraging war in Ukraine and for the European Union to start talking about peace.
The Brazilian leader’s remarks, implying both Russia and Ukraine are at fault for their ongoing war, resulted in people protesting in front of Brazil's embassy in Lisbon waving flags and holding photographs that depict war atrocities.
In recent days, Lula has toned down his rhetoric, condemning Russia’s violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, while calling again for mediation to end the war. The Ukrainian government has criticized Brazil’s approach for treating “the victim and the aggressor” alike.
Lula's statements were also strongly criticized by Washington, which accused him of echoing Russian and Chinese propaganda without taking into account the facts.
Last Monday Lula met in Brasilia with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who thanked Brazil for its contribution to the search for a solution to the conflict and its excellent understanding of the genesis of this situation.
The European Union said Friday it wants to speak directly with Brazilian government officials to make clear that only Ukraine can decide the appropriate time for a cease-fire with Russia.