Colombian President to Open Innovation Office Next Week in Jerusalem

On Thursday, officials of the Foreign Ministry disclosed that Ivan Duque, the president of Colombia is coming to a three-day visit to Israel next week and will open a trade and innovation office in Jerusalem. Duque will accompany a delegation comprising of 95 people, which includes the ministers of agricultural, health, trade, transportation, environmental protection and defense. The president will also be joined by Colombian businessmen, officials as well as representatives of the Jewish community. Yonatan Peled, the desk deputy director of the Foreign Ministry, said that the makeup and size of the Colombian delegation highlight the importance of the relationship, as well as their aim to expand cooperation over a number of issues.

The Jerusalem office will be the first innovation center that Colombia will open abroad. Peled said that the Colombian president was planning on opening similar offices in San Francisco and South Korea. Duque had disclosed his intention of opening the office back in August 2020 during a video conference with Benjamin Netanyahu, who had been prime minister back then. This marked the ratification of a free-trade agreement that had been made between the two countries. The president had said that Colombia would be able to take advantage of the opportunities brought forward by the Fourth Industrial Revolution with this new mission.

This will be the first time that Duque comes to Israel and the second time that a Colombian president will come with Juan Manuel Santos visiting back in 2013. Duque will come on Sunday and will spend the day visiting the Old City in Jerusalem before attending the economic event at night. He will have a meeting with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and President Isaac Herzog the next day and the Innovation office will be opened on Tuesday before Duque heads home. Over the course of the trip, there will be some innovation-centered events where he is expected to present opportunities for investment and cooperation to Israeli entrepreneurs in Colombian companies.

The ambassador in Bogota, Christian Cantor, said that Israel-Colombian relations were at a very unique stage. He added that Colombia was a major diplomatic anchor for Israel within Latin America. He went on to say that Duque was a good friend for Jewish people and Israel. Duque had been the assistant of the then-president Alvaro Uribe in May 2020 on the UN’s Palmer Commission that looked into the Mavi Marmara incident and had declared the economic blockade of Gaza legal by Israel. 

Duque will also be joined by Angela Maria Orozco, the Colombian Transportation Minister, who will also participate in the Smart Mobility Summit 2021 of the Prime Minister, which is scheduled for November 8th to 9th in Tel Aviv. The conference will see world leaders coming together to discuss the future of transportation. Cantor said that this visit of the Colombian president and other officials is a result of work of Israeli officials for two years in Colombia. The free-trade agreement between the two countries came into effect in August 2020 and is the first of Columbia’s with any country in the Middle East. 

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