Israel urges Brazil to undock Iranian warships

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Israel on Thursday criticized Brazil’s decision to grant berth to two Iranian warships in the face of US pressure, and urged President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s government to send them away.

The vessels docked in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday. Reuters reported that Brazil had declined to admit them in January, in a goodwill gesture from Lula as he flew to Washington to meet US President Joe Biden.

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Israel and Iran have been locked in a Cold War-style conflict for decades, which has included mutual accusations of maritime sabotage, even as Tehran faces intensified global pressure over its nuclear program and regional conduct.

Lior Haiat, spokesperson for Israel’s Foreign Ministry, called the Brazilian berth for the warships “a dangerous and regretful development,” accusing the Iranian navy of cooperating with sanctioned entities in Tehran.

“It is still not too late to order the ships to leave the port,” Haiat said on Twitter.

President Lula’s press office did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

The ships have also caused tensions with the United States. In a February 15 press conference, the US ambassador to Brazil had urged it not to allow the ships to dock.

On Wednesday, Senator Ted Cruz called for sanctions against the South American country after the docking, dubbing it “a direct threat to the safety and security of Americans.”

“The Biden administration is obligated to impose relevant sanctions, re-evaluate Brazil’s cooperation with US antiterrorism efforts, and re-examine whether Brazil is maintaining effective antiterrorism measures at its ports,” Republican Cruz said in a statement.

A February 23 notice in a Brazilian gazette said the warships had been given permission to dock between February 26 and March 4.

Diplomacy with Iran was one of the highlights of Lula’s attempts to bolster Brazil’s international standing during his previous presidential terms. He travelled to Tehran to meet then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2010 as he sought to broker a nuclear deal between Iran and the United States.

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