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Brazil's Lula kicks off Portugal trip amid Ukraine criticism

April 22, 2023

Portugal is the first European country to receive President Lula since his return to office at the beginning of the year. The trip comes amid backlash towards the Brazilian leader for his remarks on the war in Ukraine.

President of Brazil, Lula da Silva, is received by President of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, in Lisbon
President Lula is in Portugal for four days before heading on to SpainImage: João Carlos/DW

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva arrived in the Portuguese capital of Lisbon on Saturday to kick off his four-day trip to the European country.

Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa hosted a reception for Lula and Brazil's first lady Rosangela da Silva at an official ceremony at the Jeronimos Monastery.

Lula, who recently visited China shortly after a meeting with President Joe Biden in the White House, is making his first trip to Europe since being re-elected president for a third, non-consecutive term.

He hopes to strengthen ties with the country that colonized what is now Brazil as the obvious entry point to build up relations with the EU as a whole.

Lula da Silva (left) and Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa (right) watch the military parade in Lisbon
The Portuguese President welcomed his Brazilian counterpart with a military paradeImage: João Carlos/DW

Lula's stance on Ukraine

However, Lula has irritated Western backers of Ukraine, including the EU, after appearing to partially blame Ukraine for the Russian invasion and calling on the US and its European partners to start talking about peace.

The Brazilian president also hosted Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Brasilia on Monday.

Some members of Portugal's Ukrainian community held a protest outside of the Brazilian Embassy on Friday.

Lula on Saturday said he was not seeking to "please anyone" with his stance, insisting his aim was to "build a way to bring both of them [Russia and Ukraine] to the table."

"I want to find a third alternative [to solve the conflict], which is the construction of peace," he told a press conference.

Asked about the issue, Lula renewed his calls for a "negotiated" settlement: "We urgently need a group of countries to sit round a table with both Ukraine and Russia," he said. "Brazil does not want to take part in this war. Brazil wants to create peace."

"While my government condemns the violation of Ukraine's territorial integrity, we support a negotiated political solution to the conflict," he told journalists after meeting President Rebelo de Sousa.

Host Rebelo de Sousa told reporters: "President Lula believes the road to a just and lasting peace implies making negotiation a priority. Portugal has a different position. We think that for a road to peace to become a possibility, Ukraine must first have the right to respond to the invasion."

Brazil-Portugal summit

The president — who beat his far-right incumbent rival Jair Bolsonaro last year —  has stated that he wants to bring Brazil back to the international stage.

Lula "continues the agenda of relaunching Brazil's diplomatic relations with its main partners," the government noted in a document laying out his agenda.

He is expected to use the opportunity to try and relaunch negotiations for a major free trade deal between the EU and South America's Mercosur bloc. Brazil has called Portugal an "important ally" in this respect.

Lula's trip will also include a Portugal-Brazil summit where leaders from the two countries are expected to sign and ratify 12 bilateral agreements, which include a deal to begin cooperation between their two space agencies.

The Brazilian president will then head to Spain on Tuesday.

ab/wd (AP, Reuters, dpa)