(Bloomberg) -- Russia asked Brazil to resume a bilateral dialogue forum the day after President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva met his Ukrainian counterpart for the first time, according to two Brazilian officials familiar with the discussion.

Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergei Lavrov lodged the request during a Thursday meeting with his Brazilian equivalent, Mauro Vieira, at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, the officials said. Lula and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy met Wednesday on the summit’s sidelines, as each of the warring nations seeks to strengthen ties with a leader who has refused to take sides.

Lavrov asked for the resumption of the Russian-Brazilian High-Level Commission on Cooperation, a forum the two countries formed in 1997 to discuss trade, investment, technology, defense and other issues, the officials said. The commission has not convened since 2015, according to the officials, who requested anonymity because the talks were not public.

Brazil is also interested in reviving the forum, the officials said, viewing it as a permanent aspect of relations that needs to function.

The two governments will discuss possible dates for a meeting between Brazil Vice President Geraldo Alckmin and Russia Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, who jointly lead the commission, according to the officials. 


Russia’s Foreign Ministry did not respond to an email seeking comment about the commission. Alckmin’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment about a possible meeting with Mishustin.

Since taking office in January, Lula has sought to position Brazil as a neutral nation that could maintain ties with both Russia and Ukraine and help broker peace talks — a stance he and his advisers say is in line with Brazil’s traditional foreign policy approach.

But the strategy has at times irked Ukraine and its Western allies, generating skepticism of his stated neutrality. Lula’s repeated claims that Zelenskiy and the US shared blame for the war in April led a Biden administration spokesman to accuse him of “parroting Russian and Chinese propaganda.” 

The encounter with Zelenskiy, part of the Ukrainian’s efforts to rally global support for a counteroffensive to repel Russia’s invasion, was among the highlights of the UN summit. A previous attempt to meet when both were invited to May’s Group of 7 summit of rich nations in Japan fell through, while a March video call largely failed to ease tensions.

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Despite the prior acrimony, the leaders came away from the meeting with a better understanding of each other’s positions, Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told reporters in New York. Lula and Zelenskiy also pledged to maintain contact going forward. 

But Brazil has also made it clear it intends to keep talking to both sides. After meeting with Zelenskiy, Vieira told reporters that Lula would be open to a similar sit-down with Vladimir Putin if the Russian leader is interested.

“President Lula has met President Putin numerous times in the past,” Vieira said. “If there is that possibility, I have no doubt that they will meet.”

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