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President Abbas Arrives in Brazil

November 20th, 2009

President Abbas

The president of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), Mahmoud Abbas, arrived on Thursday in Brazil on the first sop of a South American tour that will also take him to Argentina and Chile. Abbas arrived in the northeastern Brazilian city of Salvador, one of the country’s most historic, and was to have dinner with President Lula on Thursday evening.

Abbas’ official visit had been announced for Friday, and it was not clear if the dinner was a last minute official addition or if the meeting was of a personal nature.

Abbas’ visit is particularly significant in the effort to secure peace in the Middle East, since Brazil hosted Israeli President Shimon Peres last week and is set to host Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Monday.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, who is part of Abbas’ team in Brazil, said the trip was part of the PNA’s efforts to seek international support for the creation of a Palestinian state with pre-1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Lula has made it clear that he would like to turn Brazil into a major player in peace talks for the Middle East.

Some Brazilian media have even said that Brazil might take on a role similar to that played by Norway in the early 1990s, at the time of the Oslo Accords – a failed effort towards the resolution of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

In recent days, after Peres’ visit to Brazil, Israel announced plans to build 900 new homes in occupied East Jerusalem, with critics saying the project complicated plans to relaunch Israel- Palestinian peace talks.

Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim anticipated that Lula might try to convince Abbas to stay at the helm of the PNA, despite his announcement that he will not contest the January presidential election.

Abbas is scheduled to stay in Salvador till early Saturday, before moving on to the southern city of Porto Alegre, which holds a large proportion of Brazil’s Palestinian community.

From Brazil, Abbas is set to travel to Chile, the site of the largest Palestinian community outside the Arab world, with about 300,000 people. In Santiago, he is scheduled to meet with Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, before heading to Buenos Aires.

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