By Maria Cervantes
LIMA (Reuters) – Peru and Colombia called on Tuesday on fellow Amazonian countries to attend a presidential meeting next month on the forest fires raging in Brazil and Bolivia and to forge a pact to protect the world’s largest tropical forest.
The meeting is scheduled to take place in the Amazonian region of Leticia in Colombia on Sept. 6, the two countries said in a statement after Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra and Colombian President Ivan Duque met.
“We have to raise our voice to a presidential level and make a pact where we all coordinate our actions to protect our Amazon,” Duque told a news conference in the Amazonian city of Pucallpa in Peru.
Vizcarra said the meeting would seek to commit countries to a common plan for protecting the rainforest in the Amazon basin, which is shared by Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana and Suriname.
“It shouldn’t just be a reactive policy due to the emergency that neighbouring countries are facing with these fires. Rather it should have a long-term view on how to avoid deforestation,” Vizcarra said alongside Duque.
The fires in Brazil have created a major crisis for the far-right government of President Jair Bolsonaro, who is losing popularity at home and finding himself isolated on the global stage over his response to blazes that threaten what many view as a key bulwark against global climate change.
Duque called the fires in Brazil “worrisome” but added that people around the world need to become more aware of how they contribute to climate change.
The fires are not limited to Brazil, with at least 10,000 square km (about 3,800 square miles) burning in Bolivia, near its border with Paraguay and Brazil.
Leftist Bolivian President Evo Morales called for an emergency meeting of Amazonian countries on Friday, but said “some countries” had shown a lack of interest for ideological reasons.
(Reporting By Maria Cervantes, Writing By Mitra Taj; Editing by Alistair Bell)