28/08/2019 8:49 AM IST

Brazil President ‘Will Accept G7 $20m Amazon Fire Aid ONLY If Macron Apologises’

The Brazilian leader said the French president must retract some of his comments, "and then we can speak".

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has said he will only accept an offer of international aid to fight Amazon fires if French leader Emmanuel Macron retracts comments that he finds offensive.

Bolsonaro said his French counterpart had called him a liar, and accused him of questioning Brazil’s sovereignty amid tensions over devastating fires sweeping the Amazon region.

Associated Press
A fire burns trees and brush along the road to Jacunda National Forest, near the city of Porto Velho in the Vila Nova Samuel region which is part of Brazil's Amazon, Monday, Aug. 26, 2019. The Group of Seven nations on Monday pledged tens of millions of dollars to help Amazon countries fight raging wildfires, even as Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro accused rich countries of treating the region like a "colony." (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

The Brazilian leader said Macron must retract some of his comments, “and then we can speak”.

The French leader has questioned Bolsonaro’s trustworthiness and commitment to protecting biodiversity.

The G7 nations have pledged $20million (£16.3m) to help fight the flames in the Amazon and protect the rainforest, in addition to a separate $12m (£9.8m) from Britain and $11m (£9m) from Canada.

Earlier on Tuesday, Onyx Lorenzoni, Bolsonaro’s chief of staff, told the G1 news website: “We appreciate [the offer], but maybe those resources are more relevant to reforest Europe.”

Bolsonaro himself has said a G7 agreement on fighting the Amazon fires treats the region like a colony.

His comments came in a tweet on Monday morning after French President Emmanuel Macron announced that the G7 had agreed on a $20m firefighting fund as well as a long-term initiative to protect the rainforest.

Bolsonaro tweeted: “We cannot accept that a president, Macron, makes ludicrous and unnecessary attacks on Amazonia, nor that he makes his intentions with an idea of an ‘alliance’ of G7 countries to save the Amazon, as if we were a colony or someone’s territory.”

At the same time, Macron savaged the Brazilian president for “extraordinarily disrespectful comments” about his wife and reiterated that Bolsonaro had lied about commitments to deforestation.

Bolsonaro, in turn, said Macron’s “ludicrous and unnecessary attacks on the Amazon” were unacceptable and accused him of treating the region “as if we were a colony”.

Macron also said on Monday that he was considering launching an international campaign to help sub-Saharan African countries fight fires raging in the area that are being compared to the Amazon rainforest fires.

Environmental groups have expressed concern about massive fires in African countries including Angola and DR Congo that are getting less attention than those in the Amazon, which have caused worldwide concern because of their potential impact on climate change.

France's President Emmanuel Macron sits with Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro (back L) and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel at an event on the theme "Promoting the place of women at work" on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Osaka on June 29, 2019. (Photo by Dominique JACOVIDES / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read DOMINIQUE JACOVIDES/AFP/Getty Images)

The funds are widely seen as critical support, but a relatively small amount for dealing with an environmental crisis of such scale threatening what Macron called “the lungs of the planet.”

More than $1 billion, for example, has been paid into a fund to help the Amazon in the past decade. And major donors Germany and Norway recently cut donations to Brazilian forestry projects, saying Bolsonaro’s administration isn’t committed to curbing deforestation.

Bolsonaro has suggested the West is angling to exploit Brazil’s natural resources.

“Look, does anyone help anyone ... without something in return? What have they wanted there for so long?” Bolsonaro said.

Bolsonaro has insulted adversaries and allies, disparaged women, black and gay people, and praised his country’s 1964-1985 dictatorship. But nothing has rallied more anger at home and criticism from abroad than his response to the fires in parts of the Amazon region.

The Brazilian leader says he is committed to protecting the Amazon and prosecuting anyone involved in illegal fires, many of which appear to be to have been set in already deforested areas to clear land for farming.

But Bolsonaro initially questioned whether activist groups might have started the fires in an effort to damage the credibility of his government, which has called for looser environmental regulations in the world’s largest rainforest to spur development.