The president of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, in an interview with Arab news agency ANBA and Israeli papers Haaretz and The Marker, said that “the world is lacking global governance” due to lack of representation of multilateral institutions, which he believes are essential to mediation of the conflicts in the Middle East, especially between Israelis and Palestinians.
“I believe that the United Nations, if they return to representativeness, could help much in the peace process in the Middle East, as a neutral party capable of telling the truth to the Israelis, telling the truth to the Palestinians, to Iranians, to Syrians and to whoever wants to hear the truth. I sincerely feel that multilateral organizations are lacking that a little,” said the president.
As examples, he mentioned the case of Honduras, where a coup d’état deposed president Manuel Zelaya in June last year. “Let’s see what happened in Honduras: The OAS (Organization of American States) unanimously condemned the coup, and what happened? Nothing, those who deposed him remained in power until the end of the term of the democratically elected president. That is, in total disrespect to the most important forum of the region,” said Lula.
To the Brazilian president, new players must participate in the peace process in the Middle East to “bring new air” into the discussion. Brazil has been offering to play a greater part in the talks for a long time. He said he plans to work on the matter up to the end of his term in office, in December this year.
“I recently spoke to [Israeli] president Shimon Peres, to the president of the PNA (Palestinian National Authority), [Mahmoud] Abbas, and they all agree that something new must take place. That is why we must continue speaking. As I believe in that, and I have one more year in office, I am going to work to see if we can bring new air into this discussion,” he said.
To Lula, Brazil has authority to participate as a mediator, as, in his evaluation, the country is an example of peaceful coexistence between people from different origins. “I think Brazil has an important part to play, as we are a peaceful country. Because here, maybe 150,000 Jews live in harmony with 10 million Arabs. I think that the example of Brazil, being the largest country in Latin America, a continent that does not have nuclear weapons, where the greatest difference, the largest conflict is verbal – I believe that we could have some teaching to offer those living in conflict in the Middle East,” he said.
The president said that the disposition for dialogue is lacking among the leaders. “There are talks I follow through the press that are developed by speakers in the third, fourth echelon. I believe that at some moment it will be necessary to call on the ‘black coats’ of each country and put them in a room in the United Nations to discuss the matter with greater objectiveness, in a more serious way. I currently have experience in second and third echelon negotiations. They are very important, but do not reach 1% of the importance of leaders sitting around a table and speaking looking into each other’s eye. I think that is lacking. See, politics is mostly contact, and people must look at each other,” he said.
Lula is going to visit the three countries for the first time next week. Read the main stretches of the interview below.
Support to Dialogue with Iran
I think that we, political leaders and governors, who preside a country that has a history of peace, a history of democratic coexistence in diversity, we must believe that it is always possible for a new reason or argument to arise so that we can undo the mistakes of the past and build something new for the present. For example: I have been talking to the presidents of the main nations in the world, especially those who are part of the Security Council of the United Nations, about the matter of Iran. I have already spoken to the Americans, French, English, Russians, Chinese… I feel that they all wish to build a peace process in the Middle East, but I also feel that the interlocutors are a little worn down in this negotiation, and I sometimes ask myself whether it is not necessary to find other players so that, with the current ones, new reasons, new arguments may be found.
The interlocutors must walk all spheres of the conflict in the Middle East, establish who talks to whom, within Israel, within Palestine, within Iran, Syria, Jordan, Qatar, and in all other countries involved in the conflict so that the international community may offer an opportunity for Palestinians and Israelis to negotiate peace and at the same time show Iran that we are against the construction of nuclear bombs.
In fact, it is necessary, and I have already had the opportunity of discussing the matter with Iran: Iran cannot go on saying that it is going to destroy the State of Israel. I also said to [Iranian president Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad that it is inconceivable to deny the Holocaust. It existed and is encrusted in the minds of humanity, and the fact that you disagree with the State of Israel does not make it necessary to deny history, you may know history.
I think we need to start building what does not yet exist, not to stop discussing the past, the conflicts of history, but to start discussing what we can discuss from now to reach peace. My thesis is that we cannot allow what happened to Iraq to happen to Iran and that, before any sanction, we must make all possible efforts to rebuild the possibility of peace in the Middle East. That is the reason for my visit to Israel, Palestine and Jordan, and also the reason for my visit to Iran in May.
We must work urgently to end the tensions. I have spoken to some leaders and they have said: “We must do something fast, or else Israel may attack Iran.” Look, I do not wish Israel to attack Iran or Iran to attack Israel. That should be the behavior of the world today. I fell that people have forgotten how to talk.
I am a man who was born in politics, dialogue, I came to the Presidency of my country through talks, I lived my terms in office conversing and I feel that through dialogue we may solve all conflicts that currently seem unsolvable. When I say it is necessary to involve more interlocutors it is because the conflict of the Middle East is not a problem of bilateral conflicts, nor will the solution be found in the way that has been attempted in recent years.
There was a moment in which I believed more in peace in the Middle East. If I remember correctly, in ’93 we traveled to Tunis, met [Palestinian leader Yasser] Arafat, then went to Israel, spoke to [then Foreign Minister] Shimon Peres, to [then] prime minister [Yitzhak] Rabin. At that time I believed that peace was closer, that people were more open to discussing the matter. Since then, many people have won Nobel Prizes, many photographs have been taken, many hugs have been given and each day it is harder, because the problem is not Israel and Palestine, the problem is to know the other interests of the Middle East, which must be on the table so that we may find the solution. As Iran is part of this, I think that it is necessary for somebody to speak to Iran.
I am constantly asking myself: who wants peace in the Middle East, to whom is peace interesting and to whom is the conflict interesting? If we do not detect that and do not place them all at the table, the possibility of reaching an agreement is minute. There is always someone acting as if he were the hidden enemy, who, without our knowing, does not allow an agreement to be made.
The UN, if it had the strength it needs, could be the great articulator of the peace process in the Middle East, but as it is today, it cannot do it, since representation in the Security Council no longer represents the geopolitics of the 21st Century. Large countries are outside, we have political representation from the Second World War, which no longer represents the economic and political force of 2010. Either leaders understand that, or we are going to see the breakup of multilateral institutions, which would be a disaster for world peace.
Misunderstanding with the US
Brazil has close ties with the United States and the United States have been a strategic partner for Brazil. However, when the theme is the sovereignty of a country and its bilateral or regional relations, each of us builds according to the needs of his country.
In 2003, after just 25 days in office, I traveled to Davos and on the way back we decided that we were going to change the commercial geography of the world, that it was necessary to diversify Brazil’s relations and that we could not depend solely on our relations with the US and the European Union, that it was necessary to grow in the Arab world, in Asia, in Latin America and in Africa, and we worked hard on political activities on these continents. The United States and the European Union, which each represented between 28% and 30% of the trade balance of Brazil – although trade with them has grown 20% on average since I was sworn in -, currently represent just 13%, because we have grown on all continents. When we created the G-5, the G-4, the IBSA (the group that includes India, Brazil and South Africa), when we created the UNASUR (the Union of South American Nations) and now, with the creation of the group of Latin America and the Caribbean, in 200 years of independence, this is the first time that Latin America joins forces alone, without the United States, without any European nation, without Canada.
The concrete figure is that we are seeking mechanisms to strengthen our economies and or relations, trying to make use of the close ties and of the similarities between us, and this does not create problems with the United States. On the contrary, when we had our first meeting in Trinidad and Tobago, soon after the inauguration of [US president Barack] Obama, I said that it was necessary for him to have a more optimistic outlook on Latin America. We had a meeting with all nations of South America, with Obama, and it was an extraordinary meeting, and then nothing else happened. So, we, definitely, do not want confrontation with the United States, what we want is to exercise the things we understand to be good to Brazil in a sovereign way.