HomeTop StoriesLula has a date with Zelenskiy in New York, despite previous acrimony

Lula has a date with Zelenskiy in New York, despite previous acrimony

(Bloomberg) — After a disappointing video call and an uncomfortable critique of the Group of Seven, Brazilian Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskiy are finally on a date.

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The pair’s meeting, scheduled for Wednesday, is one of the most anticipated meetings at this week’s UN General Assembly meeting in New York, with the Ukrainian president seeking support from a prominent leader who has so far refused to side to choose in the war.

It’s a turnaround after Zelenskiy and Lula couldn’t find time for a handshake amid acrimony in May, when they were both invited to a G-7 summit of rich countries in Japan. On that occasion, Zelenskiy’s surprise performance unnerved the Brazilian delegation, who feared a trap had been set for Lula. Brazil argued that Zelenskiy shared some of the blame for the war. A video conference between them in March yielded no results.

But now both appear to be gaining something, despite their past animosity.

Zelenskiy, 45, is rallying support for the 18-month effort to repel Russia’s invasion, and even tacit support from Lula would be a major success given the Brazilian leader’s position as one of the Global South’s most high-profile leaders . .

He is also trying to convince allies and skeptics alike that his military’s counteroffensive will ultimately succeed, despite only incremental progress so far. After New York, he will go to Washington to make his case to the Biden White House and Congress, where some Republicans are starting to have doubts.

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Lula, 77, is keen to establish Brazil as a strong force on the world stage. Adding a meeting with Zelenskiy to an agenda that already includes a one-on-one with President Joe Biden positions the Brazilian as New York’s most outspoken champion of the developing world, especially now that India’s Narendra Modi and China’s Xi Jinping both stay home.

The Brazilian president, who also prides himself on having a strong relationship with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, is approaching the meeting with a constructive spirit, his top foreign affairs adviser said.

“We will listen to what Zelenskiy has to say,” Celso Amorim told reporters in New York on Monday. “We can’t anticipate what Lula will say.”

This week’s meeting was again requested by Ukraine, according to two Brazilian government officials familiar with the matter. It is expected to take place at Lula’s hotel at 4pm on Wednesday, the officials added, requesting anonymity to provide details of a private negotiation. A Ukrainian official confirmed the meeting, without providing details.

Damage control

The meeting will give Lula a chance to refine his stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which many Ukrainian allies see as erratic and too conciliatory toward Putin.

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He has been in damage control mode since making comments about the war that irritated leaders in Washington and Brussels, including claims that Western leaders had failed to prevent Russia’s invasion. Eager to prove he can still be a neutral arbiter in the conflict, he is trying to ensure the crisis between Russia and Ukraine does not dampen his G-20 presidency, which began this month.

Yet the task will not be easy. Earlier in September, Lula said Putin would be free to travel to Brazil for next year’s G-20 summit in Rio de Janeiro, despite an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes. Lula later backtracked and said the decision would be up to the Brazilian courts.

“The meeting with Zelenskiy is part of this process to debunk the perception that he had adopted the Russian line,” said Christopher Garman, managing director of political risk consultancy Eurasia Group. “There was a learning curve in the presidential palace about how Lula should position herself in the crisis.”

Lula’s balancing act, if done well, will be crucial in achieving a shift in his foreign policy agenda, which has gradually become more focused on the fight against poverty, the environment and the representation of developing countries in global forums.

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Later on Tuesday morning, the former metals union leader will deliver the first speech of the week at the UN, a stage he plans to use to intensify his calls for a new model of global governance that will give emerging countries greater voice in international affairs. .

Brazil’s role as summit opener is a matter of tradition. It has also thrust Lula into the spotlight he has sought since he completed an astonishing political journey that took him from one of the world’s most popular leaders to prison on corruption charges between 2003 and the end of 2010 before returning to office this year the presidency.

Since taking office in January, Lula has visited 20 countries, from superpowers such as the US and China to countries such as Argentina and South Africa, to campaign for reforms at institutions such as the UN and the International Monetary Fund.

“The current global governance model perpetuates asymmetries, increases instability and reduces opportunities for developing countries,” Lula said in Brussels last July, during a summit of Latin American countries and the European Union. “The legitimate concerns of developing countries must be addressed, and we must be adequately represented in decision-making bodies.”

–With help from Andrew Rosati and Travis Waldron.

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