Egypt and Brazil: Seeing eye-to-eye

Doaa El-Bey , Tuesday 20 Feb 2024

Relations between Egypt and Brazil and developments in Gaza topped the agenda of last Thursday’s talks between President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi and his Brazilian counterpart Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Seeing eye-to-eye

 

Da Silva’s trip to Cairo marked the centennial of Egypt-Brazil diplomatic relations, Rakha Hassan, a member of the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs, told Al-Ahram Weekly.

Brazil, he added, strongly supports the Palestinian cause. “They back the establishment of a Palestinian state on pre-1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital and staunchly oppose Israel’s aggressive policies against the Palestinians.”

Following his visit to Egypt, the Brazilian president headed to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to take part in the 37th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU). The Brazilian government has been invited to attend as an observer.

Brazil’s support for the Palestinians was reflected in da Silva’s address before the AU meeting, during which likened the Israeli war in Gaza to the Nazi genocide, prompting a strong reaction from the Israeli prime minister and foreign minister. His comments angered Israeli officials who accused him of belittling the Holocaust. “Drawing comparisons between Israel and the Nazis and Hitler is to cross a red line,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry said it would summon the Brazilian ambassador over da Silva’s remarks.

In another sign of support to the Palestinians, da Silva denounced the suspension of funding to the UN Palestinian Refugee Agency UNRWA. He called for an investigation without halting aid payments.

“Israel’s behaviour has no explanation: on the pretext of fighting Hamas, it is killing women and children,” da Silva said after his meeting with President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi.

Ahead of the Brazilian president’s visit, Carlos Duarte, head of the Africa and Middle East desk at the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that “expanding relations with Egypt — one of the largest and most influential countries in Africa and among Arab nations — is a strategic diplomatic goal.”

“Egypt is an important player in the region and discussions pertaining to the repatriation of Brazilians in Gaza underlined the importance of our relationship,” he continued.

Agreements and memoranda of cooperation in the fields of research, technology and educational services were signed during da Silva’s visit.

Brazil is Egypt’s largest trading partner in Latin America and Egypt is Brazil’s second-largest trading partner in Africa. Trade between the two nations is worth $2.8 billion. The Egyptian market is opening up to Brazilian products, including fish, poultry, cotton, bananas, gelatine and collagen and the possibility of opening a new air route between São Paulo and Cairo is being discussed.

Economic cooperation between Egypt and Brazil has been boosted by the free trade agreement (FTA) they signed in 2010 which came into effect since 2017, and by Egypt’s accession to BRICS in January this year.

The bloc aims to have a stronger say in shaping the international order and to act as a counterweight to Western influence. Brazil is one of the founding members of BRICS, a grouping that represents 23 per cent of the world’s gross domestic product and 42 per cent of its population.

The special relation between Egypt and Brazil, noted Hassan, is reflected in the fact that Brazil has invited Egypt to attend G20 meeting in 2024 as a guest. Brazil holds the rotating presidency of the G20 and will host the 2024 G20 summit in Rio de Janeiro’s in November.

To capitalise on its relationship with Brazil, and with Latin America in general, Hassan says Egypt needs to concentrate on boosting exports.

This month’s visit is da Silva’s second official trip to Egypt. In 2003 he became the first Brazilian head of state to visit Cairo since the 1870s.


* A version of this article appears in print in the 22 February, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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