Blinken tells Lula US 'disagrees' with Brazilian's Gaza genocide remarks

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken told President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva that the United States disagrees with controversial remarks by the Brazilian leader comparing Israel's actions in Gaza to the Holocaust, a US official said Wednesday.

Blinken "made clear we disagree with those comments" in a more than 90-minute meeting with Lula, a senior State Department official told journalists, saying the pair had a "frank exchange" during the sit-down at the presidential palace in Brasilia.

Lula on Sunday called US ally Israel's military offensive in the Gaza Strip a "genocide," comparing it to "when Hitler decided to kill the Jews."

Israel reacted furiously, declaring the Brazilian leader "persona non grata."

Blinken "raised the issue and made clear we disagree with those comments," a senior State Department official told journalists traveling with the secretary.

The official said the pair had also discussed "whether there is room for diplomacy" on the war in Ukraine -- another issue over which Lula has often been at loggerheads with the United States.

"We don't see the conditions for (diplomacy) right now," the official said.

Lula and Blinken also discussed the humanitarian crisis in Haiti, as well as Venezuela, which is locked in a territorial dispute with neighboring Guyana over the oil-rich Essequibo region.

The official said Blinken thanked Brazil for "its efforts to try and reduce tensions between Venezuela and Guyana."

Lula wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that he and Blinken had discussed issues including a US-Brazilian initiative on helping workers, the environment and the clean-energy transition, in addition to the wars in Gaza and Ukraine.

He posted a picture of himself and Blinken smiling and clasping hands.

Blinken said it had been a "very, very good meeting," in brief comments to journalists as he left the presidential palace.

It is Blinken's first trip to Brazil since taking office three years ago.

US relations with Latin America's biggest economy warmed when Lula returned to power in January 2023, replacing Donald Trump ally Jair Bolsonaro.

Lula visited Washington a month after taking office to meet with President Joe Biden.

But independent-minded Lula, 78, a leading voice for the Global South, has pushed back against the United States on issues including the conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine.

Blinken arrived later Wednesday in Rio de Janeiro for a G20 foreign ministers meeting, where his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, will also be present.