Bolsonaro, Muslim diplomats pave way for talks over dinner

So said Arab Chamber president Rubens Hannun, who sat in the Wednesday evening meeting in Brasília. Brazil’s overtures to Israel caused discomfort.

Alexandre Rocha
alexandre.rocha@anba.com.br

São Paulo & Brasília – Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce president Rubens Hannun said this Thursday (11) that the fact that 37 ambassadors from Islamic countries, including Arab ones, had dinner with Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro Wednesday (10) in Brasília, is a positive thing. “This dinner put an end to a ‘non-conversation.’ No one was speaking to anyone else. This paved the way for dialogue,” said Hannun, who was in attendance.

The meeting came in the wake of Bolsonaro’s visit to Israel and the announcement of a new trade office in Jerusalem. The Brazilian government’s overtures to Israel and Bolsonaro’s pledge to move the Brazilian Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem bred discomfort in Arab and Islamic countries, since Palestinians also claim the city as the capital to their would-be State.

Bolsonaro (R) greets Morocco ambassador as Hannun looks on in the background

Agência Brasil quoted Bolsonaro as saying Islamic and Arab trade relations with Brazil must translate into ever-growing ties of friendship and respect. In an address, Bolsonaro also said the federal government has its “arms open” to all countries. “May these ties in trade evolve more and more into ties of friendship, respect and fraternity,” the president said.

No official initiatives were made known, but Hannun pointed out that the dinner event enabled Brazilian authorities and the diplomats to speak. “These contacts sparked a conversation and left the doors open for further dialogue down the way,” he said.

He stressed, however, that the question is yet to be resolved, since the “ill-being” and “noise” are still there. The Arab countries are major importers of goods from Brazil, especially food, and industry players fear that Bolsonaro’s nods to Israel could get in the way of that.

Agribusiness

Dinner was organized by the Brazilian Confederation of Agriculture and Livestock (CNA, acronym in Portuguese) and featured the ministers of Agriculture, Tereza Cristina (in the center in the photo), and Foreign Relations, Ernesto Araújo, as well as CNA president João Martins.

Cristina highlighted the government is intent to build relations with every country, valuing the role of agribusiness in foreign trade. “Brazil will keep determined to be a friend for all countries and our role in agriculture is to increasingly strengthen not only this friendship but Brazilian agribusiness with these great countries that are part of the Arab League,” she said, according to Agência Brasil.

Hannun highlighted the minister is aware of the importance of Arab and Muslim countries, the relevance of the relations between them and Brazil, and the long history of Arab immigration to the country. He complimented Cristina’s role in seeking a dialogue with the ambassadors. “This access allows very interesting possibilities, to see things happening, to see if we’ve overcame this discomfort,” commented the Arab Brazilian Chamber president.

Breaking the ice

According to Agência Brasil, Palestinian ambassador and Council of Arab Ambassadors in Brazil Ibrahim Alzeben (left in the picture), said this encounter served to “break the ice” in the diplomatic relation. For him, the conflict between Israel and Palestinians is a local politics issue.

“This conflict does not involve Brazil. We will maintain good relations with Brazil and wish the best to Brazil,” said the ambassador, who described the dinner as “amenable.” “This was a unique opportunity to break the ice after a series of news who hurt our bilateral relations,” he added.

Translated by Guilherme Miranda & Gabriel Pomerancblum

Alan Santos/PR
Alan Santos/PR

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