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Pranab to attend Asia Europe meet in Germany

india Updated: May 25, 2007 04:15 IST
Vijay Dutt
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External affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday began a weeklong four-nation tour, including Cyprus and Germany, during which he is expected to meet his Pakistani counterpart Khurshid Mohammad Kasuri.

The Mukherjee-Kasuri meeting is expected to take place in Germany on the sidelines of Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM), a 45-nation grouping in which India and Pakistan were admitted last year.

For the first time, India will have an interaction with European and Asian foreign ministers at the ASEM, an informal dialogue process initiated in 1996 for greater interaction between leaders from the two continents.

Mukherjee’s first stop would be Cyprus, where he will have the maiden ministerial level meeting in two decades with his counterpart Yiorgos Lillikas.

India and Cyprus will sign an agreement on combating terrorism and illegal trafficking of drugs and organised crime and a pact on abolition of visa requirement for holders of diplomatic and official passports. “We have excellent relations with Cyprus over the years and in all international fora we share a common perception,” Mukherjee said before embarking on the visit. He noted that Cyprus had supported India’s candidature for a permanent membership at the UNSC. After a three-day stay in Cyprus, Mukherjee will travel to Libya to hold talks with his counterpart Shalgem. He will also meet the top Libyan leadership.

Mukherjee will also travel to Brussels to chair a meeting of Indian Ambassadors in Europe.

Prior to his return home on May 31, he will visit Berlin for the Troika meeting of India, Germany and Portugal. It would be the first Troika meet for an Indian Foreign Minister after 2004. An European Commission spokesman said “apart from achieving closer understanding on global, regional and bilateral issues for the next EU-India summit in Delhi, the Troika meet will also lead to detailed negotiations on the free trade agreement.”

vdutt@aol.com

With inputs from PTI