Pranab Mukherjee leaves
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Pranab Mukherjee leaves on four-nation tour
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Pranab Mukherjee leaves on four-nation tour

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee today left on an official visit to Cyprus, Libya, Germany and Belgium.

New Delhi, May 24 : External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee today left on an official visit to Cyprus, Libya, Germany and Belgium.

Pranab's first stop will be in Cyprus where apart from a one-to-one and a delegation-level meeting with Foreign Minister Yiorgos Lillikas, he will call on the President Tassos Papadopoulos to hold talks on regional and multilateral issues of mutual interest.

The countries are expected to sign two agreements - Agreement on Combating Terrorism and Illegal Trafficking of Drugs and Organized Crime and Agreement on Abolition of Visa Requirement for Holders of Diplomatic and Official Passports.

This will be the first visit by an Indian External Affairs Minister in over two decades.

Prime Minister A B Vajpayee had visited Cyprus in October 2002 and Minister of State for External Affairs Omar Abdullah had visited Cyprus in April 2002.

India has consistently supported the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Cyprus and also supports a peaceful resolution of the Cyprus problem in accordance with relevant resolutions of the UNSC.

Both countries share similar views on the need to combat and eradicate the scourge of terrorism. Within the UN, both countries share the need for early conclusion of the comprehensive convention on international terrorism.

Mukherjee will also pay an official visit to Libya from May 26 to 28. This will be his first visit to an African country since becoming External Affairs Minister again in 2006.

His visit is part of the regular process of high-level exchanges between the two countries. During his visit to Libya, Mukherjee will have extensive discussions with his counterpart Shalgem and also meet the top leadership of Libya including the Prime Minister.

Mukherjee's visit will be the most important visit from India to Libya and at the highest level in 22 years since the visit of late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to Libya. The discussions with the top leadership and discussions with decision-makers will help India to enhance the pace of diversification of bilateral relations.

Libya looks upon India as a reliable friend with potential to cooperate in an extensive manner in areas such as hydrocarbon, infrastructure, education and capacity building. Specifically, there is a distinct preference for higher education and cooperation in IT, with India.

The forthcoming visit will attempt to fabricate a framework thereby enabling the elevation of our bilateral exchanges to move with the times where technology and training can bring greater benefits to both countries.

Mukherjee will be leading the Indian delegation for participation at the Foreign Ministers meeting of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Hamburg, Germany on May 28 and 29.

The Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) is an informal process of dialogue and cooperation bringing together EU member states and the European Commission, with ASEAN countries and some other Asian countries.

The ASEM dialogue addresses political, economic and cultural issues, with the objective of strengthening the relationship between the two regions. The ASEM process was initiated in1996 with the holding of first ASEM Summit in Bangkok.

Mukherjee's participation in the forthcoming Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Hamburg, Germany from May 28-29 will be the first Ministerial participation in ASEM, after India's formal admission to the grouping.

Six ASEM Summits have been held so far. The next ASEM Summit will be held in China in 2008.

From Hamburg, Mukherjee will proceed to Brussels where he will chair an important conference of Indian Ambassadors to the member States of the European Union on May 30.

From Brussels, Mukherjee will proceed to Berlin for the Ministerial level meeting of the India-EU Troika on 31 May 2007.

The Troika Meeting will enable both the sides to take stock of the development of the India-EU strategic partnership and preparations for the India-EU Summit later this year in India.

At the Troika Meeting, the EU will be represented by Germany Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier (Germany currently holds the EU Presidency), Portugal Foreign Minister Luis Filipe Marques Amado (the next EU President), Secretary General and High Representative of the European Council for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, and the Director General of the External Department of the European Commission.

The Troika Meeting will enable both the sides to take stock of the development of the India-EU strategic partnership and preparations for the India-EU Summit later this year in India.

It will also permit both sides to exchange views on regional and international issues of mutual interest, including issues such as developments in the EU, SAARC, Middle East, Afghanistan, energy security, climate change and counter terrorism.

Following the Troika meeting, there will be a bilateral interaction between Mukherjee and his German counterpart.

India's engagement with Germany, with which it has a strategic partnership, is substantive and high level visits from Germany are on the anvil.

ANI

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