Brazil’s Lula, Ukraine’s Zelenskiy to Meet on UN Sidelines After Tensions

(Bloomberg) -- Brazil President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will meet with Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskiy for the first time after months of diplomatic back and forth in an attempt to bridge differences about Russia’s war.

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The long-awaited bilateral is scheduled for Wednesday at 4 p.m. on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, according to Lula’s official agenda. A Ukrainian official confirmed the meeting, without providing details.

Zelenskiy is expected to renew his efforts to convince Global South nations to take a firmer stance against Russia over its ongoing invasion of Ukraine. The Brazilian president will approach the meeting in constructive spirit, according to his top foreign affairs adviser.

“We’ll listen to what Zelenskiy has to say, we can’t anticipate what Lula will say,” Celso Amorim told reporters in New York on Monday.

The meeting will be one of the highlights of UNGA’s week given the recent history of disagreements between two of the world’s most high-profile political leaders. Since taking office in January, Lula has sought to position his nation as a neutral arbiter in the conflict, a move that has been derailed by his initial insistence that Zelenskiy, the US and European Union shared blame for the war.

Read More: Lula Backs Off Pledge Putin Won’t Be Arrested If He Visits

Lula held a video call with Zelenskiy in March and dispatched Amorim to Kyiv two months later. But the pair has not met in person, and their last attempt to hold one-on-one talks fell through at May’s Group of Seven summit in Japan amid crossed acrimony.

Several nations from the so-called Global South have remained skeptical of US and European efforts to ramp up pressure on Russia, with prominent leaders including India’s Narendra Modi refusing to condemn Vladimir Putin over the February 2022 invasion. Brazil has not joined international sanctions against Moscow under Lula or his predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro.

A Brazilian government official, requesting anonymity to discuss strategy, said that Lula’s position on the war is public and that the president respects the interests of the different parts involved in the conflict.

Earlier this month, Lula said Putin would be free to travel to Brazil for next year’s Group of 20 summit in Rio de Janeiro despite an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court over alleged war crimes, a statement that was seen by the president’s rivals as proof he can’t be a neutral arbiter in the conflict. Lula later backtracked the remarks, saying the decision would be up to Brazilian courts.

(Updates with Ukraine’s confirmation of the meeting in second paragraph.)

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