SANTIAGO: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s bid this week to rally support for Ukraine in the face of Russia’s invasion during his first South American tour fell flat, with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva reiterating his view both parties shared blame.

Scholz has sought to project unity on Ukraine during his whistlestop three-day tour, thanking all three countries he has visited — Argentina, Chile and Brazil — for condemning Russia’s invasion at the United Nations General Assembly last year.

But the fallout of the war and harsh sanctions on Russia, such as soaring food and energy prices, have hit the region particularly hard, raising questions over the West’s approach. Scepticism also abounds about interventionism and sanctions given its own past.

On the final leg of his South American tour, Scholz on Monday became the first foreign leader to visit Lula since his inauguration. Europe is seeking to re-set ties with Brazil which were frosty under far-right former President Jair Bolsonaro.

In a joint news conference in Brasilia, Scholz said he was delighted by Brazil’s return to the world stage. But he grew stony-faced as his fellow leftist leader expounded his views on the Ukraine war.

“I think Russia made the classic mistake of invading another country’s territory, so Russia is wrong,” Lula told reporters. “But I still think that when one won’t, two won’t fight. You have to want peace,” he said, adding that he had heard very little from either side about finding a peaceful end to the war.

Lula also said Brazil would not provide ammunition to Ukraine for German-made Gepard anti-aircraft guns, as reportedly requested by Germany.

Brazil would work with other countries to help achieve peace in Ukraine, as his country has not taken sides, he said.

Published in Dawn, February 1st, 2023

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