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US did not agree to G-7's $22 million fund for Amazon fires, White House official says

French President Emmanuel Macron and U.S. President Donald Trump attend a joint press conference at the end of the G-7 summit in Biarritz, France, August 26, 2019.
Christian Hartmann | Reuters

The U.S. did not agree to the G-7's $22 million fund to help control fires in the Amazon rainforest, a White House official has claimed.

In a statement on Wednesday, Garrett Marquis, deputy assistant to the president and National Security Council spokesman, said the U.S. was ready to assist Brazil in its efforts to combat the fires, but had never agreed to the G-7 initiative.

"We didn't agree to a G-7 initiative that failed to include consultations with Jair Bolsonaro," he said on Twitter. "The most constructive way to assist with Brazil's ongoing efforts is in coordination with the Brazilian government."

He added that the U.S. had a "strong history of meaningful engagement" in Brazil on conservation, forestry, and biodiversity, which included the $80 million Partnership for Conservation of Amazon Biodiversity, an initiative led by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Marquis' statement came after President Donald Trump stood by his Brazilian counterpart Bolsonaro on Tuesday, saying in a tweet that he had "gotten to know" him well. "He is working very hard on the Amazon fires and in all respects doing a great job for the people of Brazil — not easy," he said. "He and his country have the full and complete support of the USA."

The U.K. has also shown solidarity with Brazil outside of the G-7 initiative.

Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office confirmed to CNBC on Thursday that Brazil had accepted £10 million ($12 million) from the U.K. to help with the Amazon fires.

The Amazon rainforest covers land in nine countries, but international attention has been drawn to the Brazilian rainforest since last week, when satellite data from Brazil's space agency showed that fires are burning there at a record rate. The number of forest fires in the Brazilian Amazon so far this year surged by 84% from the same period in 2018.

G-7 pledge

French President Emmanuel Macron announced on Monday that the G-7 countries — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.K. and the U.S. — would pledge at least 20 million euros ($22 million) to assist with efforts to curb the fires in Brazil.

At the time, Brazil rejected the funding, with a senior government official telling local media: "Thanks, but perhaps these resources are more relevant to reforesting Europe."

However, Bolsonaro later said he may accept the aid if Macron took back his "insults" of the Brazilian leader.

The pair have been embroiled in a public spat over the Amazon rainforest, with Macron accusing Bolsonaro of lying about his climate change commitments and threatening to veto an EU trade deal with Brazil as a consequence. Bolsonaro, meanwhile, has accused the French President of having a "colonialist mindset," and publicly insulted his wife, Brigitte Macron.

Bolsonaro told reporters on Tuesday that Brazil had nothing against the G-7, but rather against the president of a G-7 country.

Latin American partnerships

Since accusing the G-7 of attempting to undermine Brazil's sovereignty, Bolsonaro has been making efforts to partner with closer allies to take a public stand on the fires in the Amazon.

On Wednesday, the Brazilian President told reporters that a meeting with regional neighbors, excluding Venezuela, to discuss the fires would be held on September 6 in Colombia, according to Reuters.

In a joint statement with Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, the two leaders said environmental challenges needed to be met while respecting "national sovereignty."

He also accepted Chile's offer of four aircraft to help curb the blazes, Reuters reported.

Earlier this week, Bolsonaro said on Twitter that Colombian President Ivan Duque agreed with him that the countries making up the Amazon needed a joint plan on the crisis to "guarantee our sovereignty and natural wealth."

Bolsonaro has previously said he wants to open protected parts of the Amazon up to corporations for mining, saying in a televised address earlier this year that Brazil should "use the riches that God gave us."