Lula, Zelenskiy ‘Understand Each Other’ After Finally Meeting

(Bloomberg) — After months of acrimony, a much-anticipated meeting between Brazil’s Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskiy ended with both sides reaching an understanding of each other’s positions on Russia’s war.

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The two presidents also promised to maintain contact going forward, officials from each nation said after Wednesday’s exchange, which took place on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Lula, who has refrained from taking sides between Russia and Ukraine, described the event as “the meeting that was supposed to happen and needed to happen.”

“I know it’s difficult for both him and Putin,” Lula told journalists after being with Zelenskiy. “No one will have 100% in a war, no one can win everything.” The Latin American leader also said it’s necessary to build “a lasting peace so that there will never again be a territorial occupation like Russia did.”

Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba described the bilateral as an “important moment,” as Zelenskiy seeks to rally support from the Global South for the 18-month-old war. Lula has claimed that Ukraine and the US shared blame for escalating it.

“The conversation was very warm and honest. And I think both presidents now understand each other’s position much better then before it,” Kuleba told reporters in New York, before accidentally referring to Lula as “President Putin.”

The encounter was among the highlights of the week’s UN summit, after previous meeting attempts failed to bring the leaders together. It came just hours after Lula met President Joe Biden, who urged global leaders to stand firm behind Ukraine and Zelenskiy in his Tuesday address to the UN.

“We talked about the importance of paths to building peace and always maintaining open dialogue between our countries,” Lula said in a social media post after the hour-long meeting ended.

Since taking office in January, Lula has sought to position Brazil as an independent arbiter of the conflict that could potentially mediate peace talks. Yet his comments on the war have irked both Kyiv and Washington, generating skepticism of his neutrality.

The two men failed to meet in May, when they were both invited to the Group of 7 summit in Japan. Zelenskiy’s surprise appearance at the gathering sparked fears among Brazil’s delegation that Lula had been set up. They spoke by video in March but made little progress in defusing tensions.

Read More: Zelenskiy’s Surprise G-7 Stop Unnerves Critical Brazilian Leader

Lula has often voiced skepticism of Western military aid to Ukraine and taken a softer stance toward his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. He said this month that Putin would be free to travel to Brazil without fear of persecution when it hosts the summit of G-20 nations next year.

But he later walked back the comments, saying it would be up to the Brazilian courts to decide whether or not execute an international arrest warrant.

“The presidents instructed their teams and their foreign ministers to continue contact, to develop bilateral relations and discuss the possibility of peace,” Brazil Foreign Minister Mauro Vieira told reporters after the meeting.

–With assistance from Beatriz Reis.

(Updated with Lula’s comments about the meeting, beginning in third paragraph.)

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