Lula aide calls for Amazon rainforest summit in early 2023

Celso Amorim gives an interview in Sao Paulo
Brazil's former Foreign and Defense Minister Celso Amorim speaks during an interview with Reuters in Sao Paulo, Brazil, October 18, 2022. REUTERS/Carla Carniel

SAO PAULO, Oct 19 (Reuters) - Brazil presidential candidate Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva should hold a summit of Amazon rainforest nations in the first half of 2023, if elected, along with developed countries interested in its conservation, his top foreign policy adviser told Reuters.

Celso Amorim, foreign minister during Lula's 2003-2010 presidency, said the summit could give renewed political meaning to the Amazon Cooperation Treaty (ACT) signed in 1978 by Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Suriname and Venezuela.

"Let's hold a summit and let's not limit it to (countries in the treaty). Let's invite ... other South American countries, for instance, and some developed countries," he said, citing France as an interested party due to neighboring French Guiana.

His proposal is the latest sign that Lula aims to put environmental diplomacy at the center of his foreign policy. Last month, Reuters reported that his aides were reaching out to Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo to form a united front of countries with the most tropical rainforest at this year's United Nations climate talks.

When Colombia hosted a 2019 summit with neighboring presidents to make new commitments based on the 1978 Amazon treaty, Brazil's right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro sent his top diplomat instead of attending.

Venezuela was the only signatory of the ACT left out of that so-called Leticia Pact, as both Colombia and Brazil had broken off diplomatic relations with President Nicolas Maduro. Amorim said it was important to re-engage with Venezuela to make progress on issues such as protection of the Amazon.

Lula has already vowed to aggressively combat deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, which hit a 15-year high last year as Bolsonaro undermined environmental law enforcement and pushed for more mining and farming in the area.

Reporting by Flavia Marreiro and Brad Haynes

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