Brazil and Egypt pledge to forge closer relations

President Lula da Silva calls for UN reform and criticises Israel's killing of civilians in Gaza

Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, left, shakes hands with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, at Al Ittihadiya Palace in Cairo. EPA
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The leaders of Egypt and Brazil on Thursday pledged to forge closer ties between their countries as they celebrated the 100th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who arrived in Egypt on Wednesday, said after talks with his Egyptian counterpart in Cairo that he wanted relations between the two countries to be elevated to a “strategic partnership”.

He called for an increase in annual trade between the two countries, which he said stood at $2 billion.

“We must bolster bilateral relations in all possible fields like culture, defence, economy, technology and science,” he said.

President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, for his part, said he was grateful to President Da Silva for his political will to strengthen Brazil-Egypt ties.

“We have agreed during our talks to bolster our bilateral relations in all political, economic, industrial, agricultural and cultural fields,” Mr El Sisi said. Both sides, he added, agreed to set up a joint committee to co-ordinate the areas and goals of their bilateral ties.

The two countries officially established bilateral relations in 1924, 100 years ago, although their consular ties date back to 1906.

They are both members of the Summit of South American-Arab Countries, which was established under Mr Da Silva's presidency in 2005. In 2003, he became the first Brazilian leader since Emperor Pedro II in the 1800s to visit the Arab world, despite Brazil now being home to the largest Arab community outside the Middle East, with more than 16 million Brazilians claiming Arab descent.

President Da Silva also met with Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit in Cairo, where he will attend a meeting of the Arab League as a guest.

Gaza war

The Egyptian leader, whose country borders Gaza and Israel, noted that Brazil has recognised the state of Palestine and said he looked forward to visiting Brazil later this year.

Turning to the war in Gaza, now in its fifth month, the Brazilian leader said there was no justification for the scale of Israel's response to Hamas's October 7 attack, in which 1,200 people were killed.

Israel's bombardment of Gaza has to date killed more than 28,600 people, displaced the vast majority of the enclave's 2.3 million population and created an enormous humanitarian crisis. It has also razed vast stretches of built-up areas in the coastal territory.

Lamenting what he called the UN's inability to stop the Gaza war, President Da Silva said Israel's killing of women and children in the enclave was unprecedented.

“War is mostly started by crazy decisions and the Russia-Ukraine war is an example of that. I have no explanation for that war,” he said.

“Regrettably, the world is talking about war when it should be talking about food production, economic development, distribution of wealth and job creation,” he said.

The Brazilian leader recommended reforms to the United Nations to prevent further conflict. He called for the expansion of the five-member UN Security Council to include more countries from South America and Africa, and said the right to veto by its five permanent members should be rescinded.

“Members of the United Nations should be defending peace not encouraging war,” said Mr Da Silva, who arrived in Cairo on Wednesday.

Updated: February 15, 2024, 4:03 PM