Peruvian President Ollanta Humala called his trip to Israel an important one for him and his delegation at a reception Monday given by President Shimon Peres at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem.

“We know that Israel is currently going through a difficult period and we are great supporters of the peace process,” Humala said, adding that it was a great honor for him to represent his country as a friend of Israel.

Peru’s Congress, which approved the trip last week issued a statement that said: “Peru hopes to strengthen ties with countries in the Middle East, promoting areas of mutual interest to support development, environment conservation and intercultural dialogue while giving a boost to trade and investment ties and strengthening cooperation in key areas.”

Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir had met Humala when he visited Peru last May, and had held talks with Humala, Prime Minister Juan Federico Jiménez and Agriculture Minister Milton Martín von Hesse Shamir. Following these he had said that taking into account Israel’s proven abilities in agricultural, industrial and security technologies, he had been given the impression that the Peruvian government sees Israel as a strategic partner in Peru’s economic development.

Israeli companies have invested over a billion dollars in Peru, primarily in enterprises dealing with agriculture, medicine, energy and telecommunications.

Israel also has strong defense ties with Peru, which go back for many years.

Peru is currently working with water technologies that were developed in Israel, Humala said, and is transferring water from the Atlantic basin to the Pacific basin, which enables the irrigation of desert zones in the Pacific region.

Peres said in his welcoming address that he was greatly encouraged by the remarks made in Ramallah the previous day by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas when addressing 300 Israeli students who were visiting there.

What Abbas said was indicative of his desire to reach a peace agreement, Peres said.

While Peru is 500 times the size of Israel, territory is becoming less important than science, Peres told Humala.

The Peruvian president concurred and said science was one of the areas in which Peru wants to cooperate with Israel and to become Israel’s most significant partner in Latin America.

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