RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was welcomed Thursday in Brazil by a state governor who is Jewish.
Abbas was received by Bahia state governor Jacques Wagner and Brazil’s president, Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, at the airport in Salvador, Brazil’s third largest city after Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
Wagner, who is Jewish, invited Abbas and Lula for a dinner at the Ondina Palace, the state government’s headquarters. Abbas and Lula were to discuss the peace process in the Middle East and sign technical cooperation agreements.
"Both presidents will discuss matters in common, such as the peace in the Middle East and Brazil’s role, which has been gaining more importance," said the P.A.’s envoy in Brasilia, Ibrahim Alzeben, in an interview with BBC. "Brazil keeps good relations with both sides and can persuade Israel to obey international law," he added.
The meeting was held in Salvador because Lula was to attend the celebration of the Black Consciousness holiday on Friday. From Salvador, Abbas wwas scheduled to head to Porto Alegre, the capital of Rio Grande do Sul state, which hosts Brazil’s largest Palestinian community, with some 20,000 people.
Hours before Abbas’ arrival, the Brazilian government released a statement condemning the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. "Israel violates resolutions of the United Nations Security Council" by allowing the construction of 900 housed in eastern Jerusalem, the statement declared.
Abbas is the second Middle Eastern leader to visit Brazil this month. Last week, Israeli President Shimon Peres was warmly received by Lula and several other officials. Next Monday, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will also be received by Lula, despite several protests from several corners, including the Jewish community.
This is Abbas’s second visit to Brazil. He first visited the country in 2005 when he attended the first Summit of Arab-South American Countries.