Peruvian President Ollanta Humala will arrive on Sunday for a three-day visit, amid increased Israeli interest in improving political and economic ties with pro-American Latin American countries.

Humala’s Middle East tour also includes visits to Qatar and the Palestinian Authority.

He is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday.

Netanyahu announced last week his intention to make a rare visit by a sitting Israeli prime minister to Latin America in the coming months, to Mexico and Colombia.

Netanyahu’s announcement came soon after the Pacific Alliance, a Latin American free-trade bloc that includes Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Chile and Costa Rico, granted Israel observer status.

Grouped together, these countries have the eighth-largest economy in the world.

Israel is the first Middle East country to be granted observer status in this group, and as such it will be invited to take part in its staff work attend its conferences, which will facilitate the advancement of cooperation with its member states. Observer status is the first step in expanding relations with a group whose combined economies amount to some $2 trillion, outpacing India’s.

Netanyahu met last month in Davos with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli. In June, he met with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos in Jerusalem.

Panama is expected to join the Pacific Alliance soon.

Netanyahu has made clear that just as he is interested in expanding economic ties with China, he sees great potential in expanding trade relations with Latin America.

These efforts are part of a policy of expanding and diversifying Israeli markets and avoiding dependence on one market – for example, Europe.

The Pacific Alliance countries are also important as a wedge in Latin America against Iranian influence in such countries as Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia.

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