European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is headed to Pakistan to open a wide-ranging "strategic dialogue" covering security, development, and trade issues, officials say.
A European Commission statement says Ashton and Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar will formally launch the talks on June 5 in an effort to give new impetus to relations between Islamabad and the 27-member EU.
Officials say the dialogue aims to explore ways to implement a five-year plan agreed in January that would culminate in a Free Trade Agreement between the sides and include counterterrorism measures and heightened development aid.
Ashton's visit comes with relations between Pakistan and the West -- in particular, the EU's ally the United States -- strained over issues including cooperation in Afghanistan and the battle against militants along the Afghan-Pakistan border.
Based on AFP and RFE/RL reporting