G7 pledges millions to help fight Amazon fires

Firefighters try to take control of the amazon jungle fire. (AFP)
Updated 26 August 2019

G7 pledges millions to help fight Amazon fires

BIARRITZ, France: The G7 has agreed to spend €20 million euros ($22 million) on the Amazon, mainly to send fire-fighting aircraft to tackle the huge blazes engulfing many parts of the world’s biggest rainforest, the presidents of France and Chile announced Monday.
The G7 club — comprising Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States — has also agreed to support a medium-term reforestation plan which will be unveiled at the UN in September, France’s Emmanuel Macron and Chile’s Sebastian Pinera said at the G7 summit in southwest France.
Brazil would have to agree to any reforestation plan, as would indigenous communities living in the Amazon.
The initiative was announced after G7 leaders meeting in the resort of Biarritz held talks on the environment, focusing on the record number of fires destroying chunks of the Amazon.
Macron had declared the situation in the Amazon region an “international crisis” and made it one of the summit’s priorities.
He has threatened to block a huge new trade deal between the EU and Latin America unless Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a climate change skeptic, takes serious steps to protect the forest from logging and mining.

“We must respond to the call of the forest which is burning today in the Amazon,” Macron said Monday.
Nearly 80,000 forest fires have been detected in Brazil since the beginning of the year, a little over half in the massive Amazon basin.
Bolsonaro has lashed out at Macron over his criticism and suggested that NGOs could be setting the fires to embarrass him — without giving any evidence to back the claim.
But at the weekend he finally caved into international pressure to save a region crucial for maintaining a stable global climate, deploying two aircraft to douse the fires and authorizing the army to help tackle the blazes.
Speaking in Biarritz, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said new planting was needed “to preserve this universal heritage, which is absolutely essential for the well-being of the world’s population.”
He said that the issue would be discussed during the UN General Assembly in New York in September.

Islamabad leads the way in defusing tensions with Kabul

Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed, head of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, held talks with senior Afghan security officials in Kabul following allegations of harassment by diplomats in both countries.
Updated 13 November 2019

Islamabad leads the way in defusing tensions with Kabul

  • The Pakistani Embassy in Kabul said that Afghan intelligence operatives and police have been “harassing” its diplomats and other staffers over the past few days

ISLAMABAD: In a bid to defuse tensions between Islamabad and Kabul following allegations of harassment by diplomats in both countries, the head of Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency held talks with senior Afghan security officials in Kabul to resolve the matter, officials said on Tuesday.
Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed’s visit follows comments by the Afghan Foreign Ministry (AFM) last week that its ambassador in Islamabad, Atif Mashal, had been “summoned and mistreated” by the ISI, describing the incident as a “clear contradiction of diplomatic norms and principles.”
Pakistan has denied the allegations.
Mashal, who visited Kabul after the incident for consultations with the government, has now returned to Islamabad, an embassy source told Arab News on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, a statement released by the AFM on Nov. 4 called on the Pakistani government to “align its diplomatic relations with Afghanistan in compliance with international conventions and accepted diplomatic norms.”
Kabir Haqmal, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib, said Mohib had met with the ISI chief and Pakistan’s deputy foreign minister on Monday and discussed several issues, including ways to normalize ties.
“The issue of normalizing relations between the two countries and establishment of a technical commission for resolving the current problems ... were discussed,” he said.
The Pakistani Embassy in Kabul said that Afghan intelligence operatives and police have been “harassing” its diplomats and other staffers over the past few days.
Several videos and photographs shared with Arab News appear to show some of the Pakistani Embassy’s vehicles being obstructed.
In retaliation, Pakistan closed its consular section citing “security reasons,” before halting visa operations in Kabul, where hundreds of people visit on a daily basis.
A few days later, Pakistan restarted issuing visas but only to those dealing with a medical emergency.
Commenting on the situation, an Afghan diplomat told Arab News on Tuesday that the embassy was processing visa applications as per routine.
Earlier, Afghanistan had shut its consulate in Peshawar following a dispute over the ownership of an Afghan market, which Kabul says is its property despite Pakistan’s Supreme Court ruling that it was owned by a Pakistani national.
Pakistan Embassy officials said that the Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood had “productive meetings” with Mohib, the Afghan intelligence chief and acting Foreign Minister Idrees Zaman on Monday.

“Recent developments, including the harassment of Pakistan’s diplomatic personnel in Kabul, were discussed. It was agreed to form a technical committee to look into the matter with a view to immediately resolving it,” the embassy said.

“Various aspects of Pakistan-Afghanistan bilateral relations came under discussion. Both sides agreed to maintain close communication and identify steps to move forward on relevant issues,” it added.

The two sides also agreed to hold the next meeting of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS) in Kabul in December, as had been decided at a previous meeting in June in Islamabad.

The APAPPS framework comprises five working groups that are focused on politico-diplomatic, military-to-military coordination, intelligence cooperation, economic and refugee issues.

Pakistan’s former ambassador Asif Khan Durrani said that the visit of Pakistan’s high-level delegation reflects Islamabad’s policy to maintain tension-free relations with Afghanistan.

He added that the recent diplomatic row was not a major issue as Pakistan and Afghanistan have invoked the APAPPS mechanism, which still works.

“Saner elements in both sides do not want the process to derail,” Durrani, who has served as ambassador to the UAE and Iran, told Arab News on Tuesday.

— With inputs from Sayed Salahuddin, Kabul correspondent