After Holocaust remarks, Brazil condemns UN ‘paralysis’ on Gaza at tense G20 meeting

FM says Security Council inability to act shows multilateral institutions not ‘properly equipped’ for challenges; Turkey praises Brazil president’s comparison of Gaza to Holocaust

Brazil's Foreign Minister Mauro Vieira speaks during the G20 foreign ministers meeting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on February 21, 2024. (MAURO PIMENTEL / AFP)
Brazil's Foreign Minister Mauro Vieira speaks during the G20 foreign ministers meeting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on February 21, 2024. (MAURO PIMENTEL / AFP)

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — Brazil criticized the “paralysis” of the UN Security Council on the wars in Gaza and Ukraine as it opened a G20 meeting Wednesday where the international community’s deep divisions were on display.

The outlook is bleak for progress on the thorny agenda of conflicts and crises gripping the planet as foreign ministers from the world’s biggest economies gather in Rio de Janeiro for the Group of 20’s first high-level meeting of the year.

Opening the two-day meeting, which featured US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Brazil’s top diplomat Mauro Vieira said the explosion of global conflicts shows international institutions like the United Nations are not working.

“Multilateral institutions are not properly equipped to deal with the current challenges, as has been demonstrated by the Security Council’s unacceptable paralysis on the ongoing conflicts” in Gaza and Ukraine, Vieira said, adding the situation was costing “innocent lives.”

Brazil, which took over the rotating G20 presidency from India in December, has voiced hopes the group could be a forum to make progress on such questions.

But that likely took a hit when Lula ignited a diplomatic firestorm Sunday by accusing Israel of “genocide” and comparing its military campaign in the Gaza Strip to the Holocaust.

The comments drew outrage in Israel, which declared him persona non grata and could overshadow any bid to de-escalate the conflict via the G20.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan attends the G20 foreign ministers meeting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, February 21, 2024. (Silvia Izquierdo/AP)

Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan also called on the international community to take a more active role toward an urgent ceasefire in Gaza and a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a Turkish diplomatic source said.

Turkey, which has harshly criticized Israel for its offensive in Gaza and backed measures to have it tried for genocide at the World Court, has repeatedly called for a ceasefire.

Unlike its Western allies and some Gulf nations, NATO member Turkey does not view Hamas, the Palestinian group that runs Gaza and on October 7 carried out a devastating attack inside Israel that prompted the Israeli military campaign, as a terrorist organization.

“Steps that can be taken to achieve a full ceasefire as soon as possible were discussed” during talks between Fidan and Blinken, the source said, adding that Fidan also discussed “concrete steps” to stop the fighting with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock.

“The fact that a decision on a ceasefire did not come out of the UN Security Council once again has shown that reform is a must,” Fidan told a session at the G20 meeting, according to one of his aides, referring to the US veto of a ceasefire call at the 15-member body, the third time Washington has used its veto power on the matter.

IDF troops operate in the Gaza Strip in a photo cleared for publication on February 21, 2024 (IDF)

The Turkish foreign minister’s aide cited Fidan as telling G20 ministers, “The stance shown by Brazilian President Lula [Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva] is admirable.”

Blinken, who met Lula Wednesday in Brasilia before heading to the G20, “made clear we disagree with [his] comments,” a senior State Department official told journalists.

The US secretary of state and Brazilian leader had a “frank exchange” in their more than 90-minute meeting at the presidential palace, the official said.

Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, right, speaks with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, during a meeting at Planalto presidential palace, in Brasilia, Brazil, February 21, 2024. (Eraldo Peres/AP)

Wars of words

War erupted when the Palestinian terror group Hamas launched a shock attack on Israel that killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, amid horrific widespread acts of gang rape, torture, and mutilation of victims. The 3,000 attackers who burst through the border from the Gaza Strip also abducted 253 people of all ages, including babies, who were taken as hostages to Gaza.

Israel responded with a military offensive to destroy Hamas, topple its regime in Gaza, and free the hostages, over half of whom remain in captivity.

More than four months after the Gaza war started there is little sign of progress toward peace.

The outlook is similarly grim on Russia’s war in Ukraine, which also has G20 members divided as the second anniversary of President Vladimir Putin’s invasion approaches.

Despite a push by Western countries to condemn the invasion, the G20’s last summit ended with a watered-down statement denouncing the use of force but not explicitly naming Russia, which maintains friendly ties with India and Brazil, among other members.

UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron said he planned to use the Rio meeting to “call out Russia’s aggression” directly to Lavrov, as Britain announced sanctions on six Russian officials over opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s death in prison last week.

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron attends the G20 foreign ministers’ meeting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, February 21, 2024. (Bruna Prado/AP)

Lavrov — who will meet Lula in Brasilia Thursday, according to a Brazilian official — meanwhile lashed out at the West for “pumping Ukraine full of arms.”

“Neither Kyiv nor the West have shown the political will to resolve the conflict,” he told Brazilian newspaper O Globo.

Blinken voiced pessimism on the current chances for diplomacy in Ukraine in his meeting with Lula. “We don’t see the conditions for it right now,” a US official said.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell for his part warned multilateralism “is in crisis.”


Brazil also wants to use its G20 presidency to push the fight against poverty and climate change.

There will also be space for bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the gathering — though a Blinken-Lavrov encounter looks unlikely, given soaring tensions.

The pair last met in person at a G20 gathering in India in March 2023.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends the G20 foreign ministers meeting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, February 21, 2024. (Silvia Izquierdo/AP)

Founded in 1999, the G20 brings together most of the world’s biggest economies.

Originally an economic forum, it has grown increasingly involved in international politics.

A Brazilian government source said that after recent G20 struggles for consensus, the hosts axed the requirement that every meeting produce a joint statement — with the exception of the annual leaders’ summit, scheduled for November in Rio.

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