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Visit to Pakistan.

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16 February 2009

Visit to Pakistan I will visit Pakistan from Monday 16 to Wednesday 18 February.

This is the first visit by an Australian Foreign Minister to Pakistan since 1998.

Australia and Pakistan enjoy a long standing friendly relationship, underpinned by agricultural and trade ties, an expanding development cooperation partnership and growing people-to-people links, including 5000 Pakistani students studying in Australia.

Both Australia and Pakistan believe that our bilateral relationship can be enhanced and extended.

While in Islamabad I will meet Pakistan's President, Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Chief of Army Staff General Kayani.

I will reinforce in these meetings that Australia will help Pakistan tackle the security, economic and social challenges it faces.

At the United Nations in September last year, I emphasised Australia's commitment to a democratic Pakistan at the inaugural Friends of a Democratic Pakistan Ministerial meeting.

The Friends group includes the United Kingdom, United States, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Turkey.

Australia recognises that Pakistan is one of the world's most strategically important states. Pakistan is also critical to a long-term solution in Afghanistan where nearly 1100 Australian troops are deployed.

The problem of terrorism and extremism in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area has major regional and international security implications.

Australia, as a friend of Pakistan, stands with the democratically elected Government of Pakistan in the fight against terrorism and extremism. Australia will assist Pakistan as it deals with this challenge.

I will also discuss the steps Pakistan is taking to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai

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terrorist attacks to justice.

Australia also stands ready to assist Pakistan with its pressing economic and social challenges.

Australia's development assistance program in Pakistan in 2008-2009 is over $30 million, including support for health care and education.

Australia is also providing continued support to reduce blindness through enhanced district eye care, in a long-running program delivered by the Fred Hollows Foundation.

We are also strengthening our people-to-people links by providing Pakistan with 500 scholarships for study in Australia. These scholarships are being provided over a five year period.

Media inquiries: Mr Smith's office 02 6277 7500 - Departmental Media Liaison 02 6261 1555

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