Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, even before completing his five day trip to the Middle East, while still in Amman, Jordan, asked his Foreign minister Celso Amorim to travel to Syria today to discuss the peace process in the region with local authorities.
The attempt to return to dialogue and for greater Brazilian participation in the negotiations between Israel and Palestine was the undertone of the trip Lula took to Israel, the West Bank and Jordan.
“Syria is an important player both in the conflict and in the solution for peace in the Middle East,” said the president, in a press conference, just before leaving the Four Seasons hotel for the airport to fly back to Brazil.
“If rich nations, or the nations in Europe and the United States, are not talking to Syria, Brazil has good relations with the country and is going to approach it,” he said. “If it is necessary to talk to Iran, we will talk to Iran,” he added.
Lula said that “we need to bring the interlocutors that may find a solution together, as they can’t find it because they are far from each other”.
“When I went on strike in São Bernardo do Campo, the worst mistake we could commit was to say that we were not going to talk to the businessmen. Look, if you go on strike to negotiate and decide not to talk, that means there will be no negotiation,” he pointed out, referring to his past as a union leader in São Paulo state.
“Many of the people who are part of the solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine, the Middle East, are distant. You know, one country does not talk to the other, another refuses to participate in the meetings, it is something that seems to belong to somebody, but nobody solves,” he compared.
Lula has been defending dialogue between all parties involved directly or indirectly in the conflict. The Golan Heights, taken over by Israel in the Six Day War, in 1967, are part of Syria, which, to date, has belligerent relations with Israel, despite there not being a war in practice.
Apart from that, as Amorim said, also in a press conference prior to leaving Amman, “Syria obviously has some influence over Hamas”, the Palestinian movement that controls the Gaza Strip and is contrary to negotiations with Israel.
He pointed out, however, that he was not traveling to Damascus to talk about that matter, but that a solution to the process could only be found if the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), which is governing the West Bank, is strong enough to negotiate in the name of all the Palestinian people.
Amorim should also restate the invitation for Syrian president Bashar Al Assad to visit Brazil.
Although Brazil is trying to play a greater part in the process for negotiation of peace and is also trying to bring new players to the negotiating table, both Lula and Amorim pointed out that the United States is still the main intermediary of relations between Israel and Palestine.
Under this point of view, the president stressed that the irritation of the American government with regard to the Israeli decision of building 1,600 new homes in Eastern Jerusalem, considered by the Palestinians occupied territory, was important, as “it shows that the United States is not willing to agree with everything Israel does”.
Lula also stressed that both the Palestinians and the Israelis want peace, but that there are other interests on the table that are stunting the advance of the process. “What remains to be seen is who does not want peace,” he said. “When I discover those who do not want it, I am going to tell the press. We have to talk to those who do not want it,” he added.
He pointed out, however, that he plans to discuss the matter with “great care”, as there are “many interests, many people considering that they run the situation”.
“Negotiations must involve all players, from the most radical to the least radical, that is, you must help everyone establish a rule, because that establishes agreements and everybody must accept them,” he pointed out. “If the negotiating table returns to being what it used to be, the result will be the same,” he pointed out.
The president discussed the matter with Jordanian king Abdullah II, with whom he met over dinner last night. According to Amorim, Jordan also plays an important part in the process, as it is one of the Arab countries that has diplomatic relations with Israel – the other is Egypt -, while most of the country’s population is of Palestinian origin.
“That grants the country a special position regarding these questions,” said the Foreign Minister. “Here we also heard from several interlocutors great praise to the contribution Brazil may give. And not just Brazil, it is a matter of granting a new point of view to these traditional groups, which will continue existing, but to whom support is useful,” he said.
The minister added that there should soon be a meeting of the so-called “Quartet for the Middle East”, which includes the UN, the United States, the European Union and Russia, in Moscow. Amorim considers that there is space for Brazilian participation in future discussions, like what happened in Annapolis, in the United States, in 2007. “I feel that these ideas were well received and that there has been great, I would even go as far as to say spontaneous, enthusiasm on the Jordanian side regarding Brazil’s interest in the region,” he said.
Lula and Amorim believe that Brazil does not carry the same luggage of resentment and historic disputes as those currently involved, granting the country the opportunity to speak about critical questions without causing indignant reactions.