Lula Intensifies Brazil Diplomatic Push for Peace in Ukraine

(Bloomberg) -- President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is intensifying his campaign to mediate an end to Russia’s war in Ukraine as he seeks to reinsert Brazil in the global political stage.

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Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Galuzin was quoted by Russia’s Tass news agency Thursday as saying Moscow is studying Lula’s proposal to end the conflict as it continues to assess the situation in Ukraine.

The idea being floated by the Brazilian president is to create a group of countries, possibly including India, China and Indonesia, to mediate talks between the nations as war fatigue starts to grip parts of the world. Brazil is hardly the only country pushing peace proposals. China, Turkey and others have also sought to mediate negotiations in recent weeks and months.

Lula’s efforts to position Brazil and himself as pragmatic middlemen in the conflict may be hurt by comments he made last year, when he told Time Magazine that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the US and EU all shared blame for the Russian invasion. A top Ukrainian official slammed the comments as a “Russian attempt to distort the truth” in response.

No formal proposal has been sent to Russia, according to two Brazilian government officials who requested anonymity to discuss details of the diplomatic offensive. But Moscow is discussing the idea based on Lula’s public comments on the conflict, and both officials considered Thursday’s statement from Russia as a signal of goodwill toward Lula.

Brazilian diplomats in recent days have ramped up efforts to pitch their international counterparts on the plan, and held talks with at least 21 countries about the idea during last week’s Munich Security Conference in Germany.

“The chancellors discussed the current situation of the war, the Brazilian position on the conflict and Brazil’s contribution to the resolution to be voted on at the United Nation General Assembly, which calls for the cessation of hostilities for the first time,” Mauro Vieira, Brazil’s foreign affairs minister, said on Twitter amid the meetings in Munich.

Lula, in line with Brazil’s traditional foreign policy, has sought to portray himself as a mediator of conflicts in a multipolar world, rather than an automatic ally of the US and European Union. Since taking office in January, the Brazilian has discussed the war with major world leaders including French President Emmanuel Macron, US President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Biden hinted, albeit vaguely, that he could be open to the proposal during a bilateral meeting in Washington earlier this month.

The UN General Assembly on Thursday evening approved a resolution calling on Russia to put an immediate end to the war in Ukraine. Brazil was among the 141 nations that voted in favor of the non-binding resolution. In recent talks with Ukrainian officials, Brazil’s government had pushed for language calling for the cessation of hostilities that was included in the resolution for the first time.

As the war entered its second year Friday morning, Lula once again called for the creation of a group of uninvolved countries to lead diplomatic negotiations.

“It is urgent that a group of countries, not involved in the conflict, assume the responsibility of advancing negotiations to restore peace,” he tweeted.

Vieira, meanwhile, on Friday reiterated Brazil’s “condemnation” of the Russian invasion, adding that among world leaders Lula’s position on the conflict is “well understood.” And while Brazil does not have “a ready-made solution” to the crisis, he wrote for the Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper, it would continue to push for “more ambitious peace initiatives” in the days ahead, starting at a meeting of foreign ministers from Group of 20 nations in India next week.

(Updates with UN vote count and official comments after 10th paragraph)

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