August 28, 2019 / 5:39 PM / 23 days ago

United States did not agree to G7 Amazon aid initiative: NSC

PARIS (Reuters) - The United States did not agree to a $20 million emergency aid package to help battle wildfires announced by French President Emmanuel Macron at a G7 summit this weekend, a spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council (NSC) said on Wednesday.

A tract of the Amazon jungle burning is seen in Canarana, Mato Grosso state, Brazil August 26, 2019. REUTERS/Lucas Landau

NSC spokesman Garrett Marquis said Washington was ready to help Brazil combat the blazes and that this was best done in coordination with the Brazilian government.

The fires, which are ravaging an area often dubbed “the lungs of the world”, have drawn international outrage.

“The United States stands ready to assist Brazil in its efforts to combat these fires, and did not agree to a joint G7 initiative that failed to include consultations with President (Jair) Bolsonaro,” Marquis said in an emailed statement.

Calling the Amazon wildfires a global emergency, Macron pushed the disaster high on the agenda of the Biarritz summit, which he chaired.

In a news conference alongside Chilean President Sebastian Pinera on the final day, Macron said the G7 discussed the fires in depth and would offer $20 million to those Amazon-basin countries who sought help.

U.S. President Donald Trump did not attend the leaders’ session on biodiversity and climate on Monday. Asked why, Macron said the U.S. leader had bilateral meetings to attend.

“He wasn’t in the room, but his team was,” Macron said. “You shouldn’t read anything into the American president’s absence... The United States is with us on biodiversity and on the Amazon initiative.”

The aid package stirred up emotions within Bolsonaro’s nationalist government. Bolsonaro initially criticized the gesture as colonialist.

Marquis also said no agreement was reached in Biarritz on a set of principles to combat terrorist use of the internet and other online harm such as hate speech.

“While no agreement was reached in Biarritz, the countries committed to continuing to work together in the coming weeks,” Marquis said.

Reporting by Richard Lough; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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