Abbas, Lula hold Mideast talks

2009-11-20 10:04

Brazil - Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Thursday received Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas for the first in a series of discussions on forging peace in the Middle East, the foreign ministry said.

Abbas's travels here come as Brazil steps up its peacemaker role in the Middle East. Brazil last week hosted Israeli President Shimon Peres for a four-day visit, and next week was expected to welcome Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The Brazilian president has cordial relations with Ahmadinejad at a time when he has been shunned by much of the international community for its nuclear programme. Brazil, unlike much of the rest of the world, maintains that Iran has a right to peaceful atomic energy and opposes further sanctions on Tehran.

In his meetings with Abbas, Lula was expected to reaffirm his support for an intervention by the international community that could lead eventually to the peace agreement that has eluded the region despite decades of diplomacy.

Last week, Abbas -- who has hinted he may resign over the impasse of peace efforts so far -- renewed his demand that Israel stop its settlement construction in the occupied West Bank, including east Jerusalem.

Abbas and Lula also were expected to sign a technical co-operation agreement during their meetings.