Amazon fires: Jair Bolsonaro demands Macron apology before he will accept aid

  • Video report by ITV News correspondent Emma Murphy

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 he finds offensive.

Mr 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.

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

The French President put the wildfires high on the agenda of the Group of Seven summit in Biarritz over the weekend, where world powers pledged at least $20 million (upwards of £16 million) to fight the fires and plant new trees.

Macron has said he regrets Brazil's rejection of the offer of aid, saying the money was a sign of friendship, not "aggressiveness."

  • ITV News Correspondent Emma Murphy in Porto Velho, Brazil, on the environmental crisis that has become a diplomatic one

On Tuesday, Brazil's chief of staff, Onyx Lorenzoni, told the G1 news website that “we appreciate [the offer], but maybe those resources are more relevant to reforest Europe”.

Mr Lorenzoni said Mr Macron, who Brazil have repeatedly accused of meddling since he declared the fires an international emergency, was in no position to offer help in the wake of April's fire at Notre Dame.

The Amazon fires have led to a bitter war of words between Macron and Bolsonaro. Credit: AP

"Macron cannot even prevent a predictable fire in a church that is a World Heritage Site, and wants to teach our country? He has a lot to look after at home and in the French colonies," Mr Lorenzoni told the website.

In a diplomatic speech on Tuesday, Mr Macron called that interpretation a "mistake."

He said: "We would happily accept international solidarity, it's a sign of friendship."

Mr Macron said the money was not just aimed at Brazil but at nine countries in the Amazon region, including Colombia and Bolivia. He added that France too considers itself an Amazon country via its overseas region of French Guiana.

The G7 nations pledged tens of millions of dollars to help Amazon countries fight the raging wildfires. Credit: AP

The rejection of the aid money is the latest in a bitter war of words between France and Brazil which has even turned personal at times.

Mr Bolsonaro has bristled at what he sees as Mr Macron's interference, accusing his French counterpart of treating the region like a colony.

After the announcement of the G7 pledge, Mr 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."

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.