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BRASILIA: French President Emmanuel Macron and his Brazilian counterpart Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Thursday displayed their unity on major global issues, while skirting differences on the war in Ukraine.

Macron wrapped up his three-day tour of the Latin American giant with a solemn, but warm, trip to the presidential palace in the modernist capital Brasilia.

The French leader paid tribute to “the spirit of resistance” of Lula’s government for “restoring democracy” after a crowd of extreme-right supporters of former president Jair Bolsonaro stormed the seats of power in the city in January 2023.

Lula hailed a relationship between the two countries as one that created “a bridge between the global South and the developed world.”

While the two men firmly reset the frosty ties of the Bolsonaro years, they retain deep differences over the war in Ukraine, a subject which only briefly reared its head.

While France and the West support Kyiv wholeheartedly, Lula has in the past said that Ukraine and Russia share responsibility over the conflict and has refused to isolate Moscow.

Responding to a question from a journalist, Macron said that Brazil, as the current chair of the G20, could invite Russia’s President Vladimir Putin to a summit in Rio de Janeiro in November if other members agreed.

“The meaning of this club is that there must be consensus with the 19 others. That will be a job for Brazilian diplomacy,” he said.

If such a meeting can be “useful, it must be done,” Macron said.

Lula responded only that “diversity” must be accepted in organizations like the G20.

Putin missed last year’s G20 summit in the Indian capital New Delhi, avoiding possible political opprobrium and any risk of criminal detention under an International Criminal Court (ICC) warrant.

In September 2023, Lula said there was “no way” that Putin would be arrested if he attended the Rio de Janeiro summit.

Shortly after, he backtracked and said that it would be up to the justice system to decide on Putin’s eventual arrest and not his government.

Lula’s only remarks on the conflict were that “the two stubborn” leaders will “have to get along,” referring to Putin and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky.

However, he highlighted that Ukraine was not Brazil’s priority, and turned to a crisis in his own neighborhood, that he and Macron agreed upon: Venezuela.

Both leaders condemned the exclusion of the main opposition coalition’s chosen candidate, Corina Yoris, 80, from July 28 elections.

“We very firmly condemn the exclusion of a serious and credible candidate from this process,” Macron said.

Lula described the situation as “serious” and said there was “no legal or political explanation for banning an opponent from being a candidate.”

“I told Maduro that the most important thing to restore normality in Venezuela was to avoid any problems in the electoral process, that the elections be held in the most democratic way possible.”

From the protection of the Amazon to cooperation in the building of submarines and economic ties, the two leaders showed off the broad Franco-Brazilian partnership over the three-day visit.

Macron and Lula also brushed over tensions about the long-delayed EU-Mercosur free trade agreement, which Brazil has pushed for and France has blocked.

Macron blasted the deal as “a really bad agreement” and said it should be buried in favor of a new one that “is responsible from a development, climate and biodiversity point of view.”

Lula said he was “very calm” and noted only that Brazil “does not negotiate with France” but with the EU.

The two leaders’ close relationship was highlighted by a warm meeting in the Amazon, in which they were pictured beaming and clasping hands, to the delight of Brazilians who spawned a raft of memes comparing the images to a wedding album.

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