European Commission Vice- president Baroness Catherine Ashton and Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd on Monday opened talks in Canberra to discuss new agreement to forge closer cooperation in security, development aid and climate change. Baroness Ashton is making her fourth visit to Australia. The discussion began on Monday at the Australia-European Union (EU) Ministerial Consultations summit in Canberra, and will continue in the coming months, targeting to reach a conclusion in 2012. Kevin Rudd said the talks mark a significant milestone in the Australia-EU relationship, and opens a new phase of closer cooperation between Australia and the EU. Baroness Ashton, representing the EU, also said the agreement would recognize the relationship\'s importance and provide a platform to increase collaboration in foreign affairs and security, development assistance, climate change, research, science and education. \"The agreement would give political expression to our commitment to build a stronger, forward-looking partnership,\" Ashton told reporters in Canberra on Monday. Rudd and Baroness Ashton will also hold separate talks on a crisis management agreement to deal with international events, such as the recent turmoil in Libya and Egypt. During last week\'s Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Perth, Rudd and Baroness Ashton agreed on two Australia-EU delegated aid projects in South Sudan and Fiji.