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Swiss forge deal with Peru over stolen goods

Interior Minister Pascal Couchepin has signed an accord with Peru aimed at returning stolen goods, particularly archaeological artefacts.

Switzerland is among the world's five biggest trade hubs for art objects, according to the Federal Culture Office.

The signing ceremony with the Peruvian deputy foreign minister, Gonzalo Gutierrez Reinel, took place in the capital, Lima, during an official visit by Couchepin.

Peru has a history and cultural heritage dating back thousands of years. According to recent archaeological findings, settlements existed as early as 11,000 BC. Around the 13th century BC, cultures such as the Chavín, Chimú, Nazca, and Tiahuanaco migrated into the region, now known as Peru, from the north.

Peru was the centre of Inca rule between 1200 and the 16th century, spanning the area of Latin America which is now home to Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina and Chile.

Spain invaded the Inca empire in 1534, conquering it and destroying the culture.

The cultural goods deal is the latest in a series of measures by Switzerland to combat trafficking in stolen antiquities.

In October Switzerland and neighbouring Italy agreed a similar deal against the traffic of illicit goods - to come into force in the first half of 2007.

Switzerland was known as a transit point for stolen artefacts before it introduced legislation in 2005 that brought it into line with a convention by the United Nations culture organisation (Unesco) against traffic in illicit goods.

Cooperation

Couchepin also signed a declaration of intent on Thursday to boost scientific cooperation with Peru in the field of biotechnology and agriculture.

During his three-day visit Couchepin met President Alan García for talks on the economic development of Peru, according to a Swiss spokesman.

In March 2005 Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey travelled to Peru as part of a six-day visit to South America – the first by a Swiss minister in nearly a decade.

Peru is the oldest priority country for Swiss development aid in Latin America. Swiss involvement goes back more than 40 years and totalled SFr19.1 million ($15.7 million) in 2006.

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Relations Switzerland - Peru

Ties between the countries have been limited to a trade accord (since 1953) and an agreement on investment (1991).

Peru's exports to Switzerland saw a 179% rise in 2005 mainly as a result of the trade in gold.

Other exports are agricultural produce, including coffee, as well as machinery and textiles. They were worth SFr23.2 million in 2005.

The Swiss exported machinery, watches as well as chemical and pharmaceutical products worth SFr97.4 million to Peru in 2005.

Switzerland is among the top eight foreign investors in Peru with an investment of SFr340 million in 2005.



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