Peru is a land of limitless possibilities in every possible field; a country with an ancient heritage and a modern outlook, is how the ambassador or the Republic of Peru to Kuwait, His Excellency Heli Pelaez Castro would like to describe his country. A veteran diplomat who has served his country meritoriously for over three decades in various world capitals, Ambassador Castro arrived in Kuwait just over a year ago to take up his first posting in the Middle-East and the Arab world in general.
"Before arriving in Kuwait, I served as the ambassador of my country to Honduras and prior to that at the Permanent Mission of Peru to the United Nations in New York and in Geneva. Over the years I have also been assigned to our embassies in the Czech Republic, in Venezuela, Austria and at the General Consul in New York," said the diplomat at the start of an exclusive interview with The Times Kuwait.
We were sitting in the ambassador's exquisitely furnished office in downtown Sharq, which provided an expansive view of Kuwait Bay in the distance, and was replete with arts, crafts and other products that highlighted the vibrant culture and amazing diversity of Peru and its people.
The Republic of Peru established diplomatic relations with the State of Kuwait on 1 December, 1975 and elevated ties to the ambassadorial level with the appointment of an ambassador and the opening of the embassy here in 2011. Cooperation with the Middle-East and Arab region were given a boost during the third South American-Arab Countries Summit (ASPA Summit) that was held in Lima in October 2012. The summit resolutions paved the way to further develop bi-regional relations through political dialogue and multidimensional cooperation, as well as to broaden diplomatic relations between Arab and South American countries.
"Our government's policy of strengthening relations with countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), led us to open embassies in Qatar, UAE and Saudi Arabia along with Kuwait. Next year we will be celebrating 40 years of diplomatic relations between our two friendly countries, and we look forward to the opening of Kuwait's embassy in Lima, our capital, in the near future" said the envoy.
"Since presenting my credentials to His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Jaber Al Sabah, Amir of the State of Kuwait, the embassy and I have worked on multilateral levels to enhance the already strong relations between Peru and Kuwait. I have attempted to re-launch the good bilateral relations and give it greater momentum through closer cooperation and friendship with the authorities and people of Kuwait," added the diplomat.
In recent months, two ministerial-level meetings were conducted between Peru and Kuwait; one was between our two Ministries of Health, and the other was held in Lima at the conclusion of the first forum for women leaders in ASPA. The women's forum was attended on the Kuwaiti side by a high-level delegation headed by the Chairperson of Women's Affairs Committee at the Kuwaiti Cabinet, Sheikha Latifa Al-Fahad Al-Salem Al-Sabah.
The top-level delegation to the forum discussed with the Peruvian Minister of Women and Vulnerable Populations, Carmen Durand, means of cooperation in regard to women's issues and stressed the significance of exchanging expertise and coordinating stances between the two countries at international venues. The meeting was attended by Deputy Chairperson of Women's Affairs Committee Sheikh Hessa Saad Al-Abdullah and Kuwait's Ambassador to Chile and non-resident in Peru Reem Al-Khaled.
Elaborating on people level engagements between Peru and Kuwait the envoy added that these ties were given a further impetus last year with a highly successful, week-long Peruvian Artistic and Culinary Festival. "The festival featured Peruvian chefs and art exponents who were able to introduce the people of Kuwait to the creative and culinary diversity of Peru. Shortly, we are going to sign a bilateral agreement on promoting cultural exchanges between the two countries. Meanwhile, in coordination with Kuwait's National Council of Culture, Arts and Letters, we are planning to invite one of the best Peruvian folk music bands to perform in Kuwait, probably in October as part of our National Day celebrations. The band will introduce Kuwaiti public to the range and rhapsody of Andean music and songs, as well as the melodious versatility of traditional musical instruments."
"We are also planning a gastronomic festival where we aim to bring one of the most famous Peruvian chefs to teach local chefs in Kuwait on ways of preparing delicious Peruvian dishes, such as the famous Ceviche, Papa a la Huancaina, Arroz con Pato, Aji d Gallina, Anticuchos, Papa Rellena and, of course, dishes made from quinoa.
The quinoa, is often called the golden grain of the Incas, our ancestors who began growing this grain on the Peruvian highlands centuries ago. One of the most versatile grains, the quinoa is regarded as the gift of Peru to the rest of the world, and is considered a super food on account of its high nutritive value, rich protein and fiber content. "And, because of being gluten-free, it is an ideal ingredient that could be beneficially incorporated in diabetic diet regimens. We are in talks with Kuwait's Dasman Diabetes Institute on introducing quinoa as a supplementary food for diabetic patients here," noted the ambassador.
Peru has an amazing culinary diversity and our cuisines have been slowly gaining ground among gastronomes and top restaurants around the world. Two of the top fifteen restaurants in the world today are Peruvian and the country has been voted as the World's Leading culinary Destination for two years in a row by World Travel Awards. The ambassador went on to proudly add, "Did you know, for instance, that there are more than 450 original Peruvian dishes and that today there are more than 2,000 varieties of potatoes native to Peru. The potato originated in Peru before it was brought to Europe by the Spaniards in the 16th century."
On the economic side, Peru has enjoyed political and economic stability for the last twenty years as a result of astute and prudent political and economic policies implemented by consecutive governments. Recent economic growth has been fueled by macroeconomic stability, improved terms of trade, and rising investment and consumption. The Peruvian economy has displayed a relatively high growth rate of six to seven percent annually for many years running and rating agencies have given the country triple B+ ranking based on its long-term credit ratings. The economy, which is considered as upper middle income and one of the fastest-growing global economies by the World Bank, is the 39th largest in the world and one of the best-performing in Latin America.
Speaking about expanding two-way trade between Peru and Kuwait, the ambassador was upbeat on the potential. "We are promoting bilateral trade through encouraging trade contacts between Peruvian food producers and potential Kuwaiti importers. Trade between Peru and Kuwait, which is relatively small at the moment, could be significantly boosted through import by Kuwait, of fish, meat and other agricultural imports, as well as jewelry and high-end cotton fabrics, as well as the remarkably delicate and soft alpaca wool."
There are plenty of investment opportunities in various sectors of the Peruvian economy, including in mining, fishing, agriculture, gas energy, manufacturing, tourism and infrastructure, especially in airports, harbors and highways, noted the ambassador. "My message to businesses and entrepreneurs in Kuwait is that Peru is on a growth trajectory, our domestic market is developing significantly and the country provides plenty of good opportunities for investments. While we already have a broader economic and investment framework to safeguard and promote investments on the GCC level, we are in the process of beginning negotiations on bilateral economic agreements with Kuwait that will further facilitate trade and investment between our two nations," added the envoy.
On the tourism front, Peru is an open archeological museum with a history that spans from the six thousand year old Norte Chico civilization, one of the oldest in the world, to the grandeur and sophistication of the Inca Empire, the largest in Pre-Columbian America. Remnants of those civilizations can still be seen at the City of Cuzco, in Caral and at Macchu Picchu, the mountain top city of the Incas, which was recently named as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World by UNESCO.
Ambassador Castro went on to add, "It is true that Peru and Kuwait are quite distant and this distance gives rise to several misconceptions about safety, about infrastructure and availability of modern facilities and amenities. I would like to encourage Kuwaitis and residents in Kuwait to visit the country, whether for business or leisure, and experience it for themselves; Peru you will find is one of the safest and most diverse places in Latin America."
From traditional villages along the banks of Lake Titicaca, that take visitors back in time, to Iquitos, at the heart of Peruvian Amazon where the amazing biodiversity is one of the largest in the world, and on to downtown Lima, where one can witness several Arabic influence that were transmitted through the Spanish conquerors in the 16th century, Peru is a unique land blessed with a long coastline, majestic mountains and verdant jungles. A visit to this land is an experience unlike any other.
Wishing the leadership, government and people of Kuwait the very best, Ambassador Castro concluded by expressing his hope that relations between Peru and Kuwait would continue to grow and prosper in the coming years.
- Staff Report