(Bloomberg) — The unannounced attendance of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy at the G-7 summit has unnerved the Brazilian delegation, which now feels pressure to accept an invitation for a face-to-face meeting with President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, according to Brazilian officials.
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Lula, who is also attending the Group of Seven summit in Japan as an invited guest, is still on the fence about a meeting with Zelenskiy, said the officials, who asked not to be identified discussing private information.
As opposed to G-7 countries, Brazil has taken a more neutral stance on the war in Ukraine, arguing at times that Zelenskiy, the US and European countries shared blame for Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s invasion. Lula has softened his stance in recent weeks, however, toning down some comments and dispatching a top aide to Kyiv.
In a meeting Saturday with Emmanuel Macron, the French president urged Lula to sit down with Zelenskiy, according to people familiar with the conversation. A spokesperson for Macron said the French leader discussed Ukraine with Lula, but did not confirm if such a request was made. The Brazilian leader only said in a tweet that Ukraine was discussed.
Zelenskiy arrived in Hiroshima on Saturday afternoon on a French government airplane, a trip that was kept under wraps until a day earlier. Some in the Brazilian delegation said the presence of the Ukrainian leader was a “trap” to force a meeting, while others complained they only learned about the visit when Lula was already in Japan, the officials said.
Many in the Brazilian delegation were nervous that Zelenskiy would be included in the so-called family photo of summit leaders on Saturday, the officials said, and felt relief when he didn’t show up. Japan had said earlier there would be no press availability for Zelenskiy.
Lula’s press office denied repeated requests to confirm whether the Brazilian leader would meet Zelenskiy. The Brazilian officials said it was still possible a meeting between the leaders could take place on Sunday, the final day of the summit.
Last month, Lula traveled to China to discuss President Xi Jinping’s cease-fire proposal, which would effectively freeze Russian troops in place. Zelenskiy has rejected any framework that doesn’t involve the completely withdrawal of Russian forces, a position also repeated by G-7 leaders at the summit in Japan.
While in Beijing, Lula called on BRICS nations — also including Russia, India, China and South Africa — to come up with an alternative to the dollar in foreign trade. And he accused the US of helping to stoke the war in Ukraine.
“It’s important that the US stops encouraging war and starts talking about peace,” Lula told reporters last month during his trip to China. Just days later, he then hosted Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Brazil.
A senior official from a European G-7 country earlier said Zelenskiy’s presence provided a great opportunity to engage in person with leaders like Lula and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who met the Ukrainian president for the first time on Saturday. India has been one of the prime buyers of Russian oil and weapons, providing hard currency to Putin’s government at a time when the G-7 is seeking to starve it of funds.
–With assistance from Alberto Nardelli and Isabel Reynolds.
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