Secretary of State Blinken meets with Brazil's president after incendiary Gaza comments

U.S. top diplomat Antony Blinken met President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Wednesday, as the Brazilian leader was in the middle of a diplomatic spat with Israel over comments in which Lula likened that country’s war in Gaza to the Nazi genocide during World War Two.

In brief remarks in front of reporters as they met at Brasilia’s presidential palace, Lula remarked that U.S. presidential elections are coming up in November.

Secretary of State Blinken responded that politics in the U.S. were “so polarized” and the election would come down to six or seven battleground states including Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Nevada.

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“There are fewer and fewer undecided voters,” Blinken said. “There’s a battle for a very thin segment of the electorate.”

In a statement after the meeting, which lasted almost two hours, the Brazilian presidential office said that Lula and Blinken had discussed several topics ranging from the G20 summit to peace efforts in Gaza and Ukraine.

“President Lula reaffirmed his wish for peace and an end to the conflicts in Ukraine and the Gaza Strip,” the Brazilian government said. “Both agreed on the need for the creation of a Palestinian State.”

Antony Blinken meets with Brazil's President

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, on Feb. 21, 2024.  (REUTERS/Adriano Machado)

U.S. officials had previously said they expected Lula and 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.

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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.

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