RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) — Israel’s President Shimon Peres became an honorary citizen of Brazil’s capital, Brasilia.
The honor was granted Tuesday during Peres’ visit to the Brazilian Congress.
"This title is a great honor to me and to all the people of Israel. Brasilia is the capital of a new world," Peres declared.
Peres is the first Israeli president to visit Brazil in 40 years. He has a heavy five-day agenda in the country, including a meeting with President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva and several other government officials. Peres also will attend long-awaited meetings Thursday and Friday with the Jewish communities in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, which are home to most of the country’s 120,000 Jews.
Peres told the Brazilian media before leaving Israel that he will discuss with President Lula the issue of peace negotiations in the Middle East but he will not tackle the subject of Iran, although the Islamic Republic’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will be welcomed by Brazil about two weeks later.
Giora Becher, Israel’s ambassador to Brazil, said that "Brazil has a very important role in supporting and helping the moderate forces in the Arab world, and among the Palestinians against terrorists, and against those who don’t believe in the peace process and don’t recognize Israel’s right to exist."
Israel’s honorary consul in Rio, Osias Wurman, told JTA that "Lula’s invitation to Peres is a proof of the respect and recognition of the Brazilian government to the people and the State of Israel. Both countries have historical ties in the cultural, commercial and political fields. We must remember that it was a Brazilian, Osvaldo Aranha, who presided over the United Nations session that decided on the partition of Palestine."
Peres’ delegation includes Israel’s tourism minister, 40 Israeli business leaders and senior members of the Israeli defense industry.