Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva welcomed South American and Arab leaders to Brasilia, the Brazilian capitol, Tuesday for a summit on trade and other issues. Mr. da Silva said the regions have common goals for commercial and social development. U.S. and Israeli officials are concerned that the summit participants might use the meetings as an opportunity to criticize U.S. and Israeli policy in the Middle East.
In an address Tuesday to South American and Arab representatives, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva welcomed participants to an unprecedented summit to foster cooperation between South America and the Arab world.
Mr. da Silva said the nations on hand had common goals for commercial and social development.
"We want to enjoy and realize our potential to reach the common objectives of South America and the Arab world," Mr. da Silva said.
In his opening remarks for the two-day summit, the Brazilian president called on the participants to band together to combat poverty and hunger in both regions.
The leaders also pledged support for sweeping political and economic changes to bring the regions together.
On Monday, representatives arriving for the summit in Brasilia expressed a desire to increase trade between South America and the Arab world.
Brazil's Foreign Ministry estimates the two regions exchanged about $10 billion in bilateral trade last year.
On the diplomatic front, Mr. da Silva spoke with Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas on Monday and urged him to be patient in peace talks with Israel.
U.S. and Israeli officials have expressed concern that the meetings could serve as a platform to launch attacks on both nations' policies in the Middle East.
Last week the Israeli embassy in Brazil released a statement saying it was concerned about the upcoming summit.
And, a U.S. government official told VOA he hopes the meeting does not undermine the peace process in the Middle East.
A summit declaration is expected to be released at the conclusion of the summit Wednesday. A draft statement reportedly includes language that demands Israel disband settlements in Palestinian areas and retreat to its borders before the 1967 Mideast war. The draft also condemns U.S. economic sanctions against Syria and denounces terrorism. But, the draft statement asserts the right of people to resist foreign occupation, saying acts of national defense are not considered terrorism.