JERUSALEM — The Israeli government 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 gesture from Lula as he flew to Washington to meet US President Joe Biden.
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.
A Feb. 23 notice in a Brazilian gazette said the warships had been given permission to dock between Feb. 26 and March 4. In a Feb. 15 press conference, the US ambassador to Brazil had urged it not to allow the ships to dock.
Diplomacy with Iran was one of the highlights of Lula's attempts to bolster Brazil's international standing during his previous presidential terms. He traveled to Tehran to meet then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2010 as he sought to broker a nuclear deal between Iran and the United States.