EU plans delegation in Mongolian capital to enhance ties

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BEIJING (AP) — The European Union plans to open a delegation in Mongolia this year, the 28-nation group said Tuesday, in a move that will expand its relationship with the resource-rich country wedged between China and Russia.

The decision to have a presence in the capital, Ulaanbaatar, marks a milestone in European-Mongolian relations, and will help enhance political dialogue and cooperation between Europe and Mongolia, the EU said in a statement.

High Representative Federica Mogherini said Mongolia has "an important role in a complex region, with a unique geostrategic position," according to the statement.

Following a peaceful democratic revolution in 1990 that removed it from the Soviet orbit, Mongolia has sought for decades to expand trade and diplomatic relations with "third neighbors" other than Russia and China, two powers that have historically exerted enormous political and economic influence.

The landlocked country of 3 million people boasts vast mineral wealth but has struggled in recent years to court foreign investment due to plunging commodity prices and high-profile disputes between the government and large investors such as mining giant Rio Tinto.

The government has also been weighed down by massive debt and recently obtained a $5.5 billion bailout led by the International Monetary Fund.

Earlier this month, Mongolia elected a populist business tycoon and ex-judo champion as its new president. In a runoff election, Khaltmaa Battulga of the Democratic Party edged out his establishment opponent, Miyegombo Enkhbold of the Mongolian People's Party.

Battulga said after his victory that he would boost ties with China and Russia but also seek to expand ties with "third neighbors."

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