Scholz bid to rally Ukraine support in South America falls flat
By Sarah Marsh and Anthony Boadle
SANTIAGO/BRASILIA (Reuters) -German Chancellor Olaf Scholz's bid this week to rally support for Ukraine in the face of Russia's invasion during his first South American tour fell flat, with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva reiterating his view both parties shared blame.
Scholz has sought to project unity on Ukraine during his whistlestop three-day tour, thanking all three countries he has visited - Argentina, Chile and Brazil - for condemning Russia's invasion at the United Nations General Assembly last year.
But the fallout of the war and harsh sanctions on Russia, such as soaring food and energy prices, have hit the region particularly hard, raising questions over the West's approach. Skepticism also abounds about interventionism and sanctions given its own past.
On the final leg of his South American tour, Scholz on Monday became the first foreign leader to visit Lula since his inauguration. Europe is seeking to re-set ties with Brazil which were frosty under far-right former President Jair Bolsonaro.
In a joint news conference in Brasilia, Scholz said he was delighted by Brazil's return to the world stage. But he grew stony-faced as his fellow leftist leader expounded his views on the Ukraine war.
"I think Russia made the classic mistake of invading another country's territory, so Russia is wrong," Lula told reporters.
"But I still think that when one won't, two won't fight. You have to want peace," he said, adding that he had heard very little from either side about finding a peaceful end to the war.
Lula also said Brazil would not provide ammunition to Ukraine for German-made Gepard anti-aircraft guns, as reportedly requested by Germany.
Brazil would work with other countries to help achieve peace in Ukraine, as his country has not taken sides, he said.
China has an important role to play in peace talks, he added, which he will discuss on a planned visit to Beijing in March.
NO WEAPONS FOR UKRAINE
Earlier on Scholz's tour, designed to boost ties with the region, Argentina and Chile's leaders more clearly condemned the Russian attack but dialed back any hope for support for Ukraine's war effort.
"Argentina and Latin America are not planning to send weapons to Ukraine or any other conflict zone," Argentine President Alberto Fernandez said during a joint news conference in Buenos Aires with Scholz on Saturday.
Chilean President Gabriel Boric defended his condemnation of the invasion despite the fact "some media or opinion makers could believe it was a bad decision to get involved in the politics of other countries".
Dodging a question about whether he agreed with Fernandez on weapons, he said Chile had promised to help Ukraine rebuild after the war, for example clearing mines.
In both countries, Scholz visited memorials to the victims of their military dictatorships that he said underscored the need to fight for democracy and freedom.
"At this memorial to the many victims of the dictatorship here I cannot help but think of the young people who are being killed in Iran because they are fighting for freedom and a better life," he said in Buenos Aires.
In Brasilia, he expressed his full solidarity for Lula and Brazil at large after Bolsonaro supporters earlier this month stormed government buildings.
German government officials say it is understandable Latin American countries have diverging views on the causes of the war and how to handle it, but highlight the importance of continuing to convey the Western perspective - as Scholz has also done in Africa and Asia.
(Reporting by Sarah Marsh and Anthony Boadle; Additional reporting by Brendan O'Boyle and Riham Alkousaa; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Jonathan Oatis)