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EU's Ashton To Visit Pakistan For 'Strategic Dialogue'

European Union Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Chief Catherine Ashton (file photo)
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