Moroccan American Center for Policy (Washington, DC, March 1, 2012) – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking to press in Rabat on Sunday with Moroccan Foreign Minister Saad Dine El Otmani, praised Morocco as a leader on Arab Spring reforms and a key partner for peace in the region. She described Morocco’s autonomy initiative to resolve the Western Sahara conflict as “serious, realistic, and credible” and reiterated that US policy “has remained constant.” The US policy supporting a solution based on autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty to end the decades-old dispute has earned the backing of three US Administrations—Bill Clinton, George Bush, and Barack Obama—as well as that of bipartisan majorities in both Houses of Congress.

Clinton noted that Morocco-US relations date back to 1777, when “Morocco was the first nation to recognize America’s independence.” More than two centuries later, Clinton said, “Morocco once again is leading the way.” She praised last summer’s Constitutional referendum and the November Parliamentary elections, which “signaled an acceleration of reforms that began under his Majesty King Mohammad VI more than a decade ago.” Clinton said Morocco “is a very good model for others who are also seeking to have their own democratic reforms.”

“Morocco and the US are bound by strong longstanding relations that keep developing year after year,” Foreign Minister El Otmani said, describing Clinton’s visit as an opportunity for the two countries to agree on setting up a mechanism for regular political consultation to further reinforce bilateral cooperation. “We also agreed to foster our economic cooperation, raise US investments in the Kingdom and strengthen relations between the two country’s businessmen.” He said the US and Morocco have signed economic cooperation accords including a Free Trade Agreement in 2006, and are both concerned with preserving stability in the region.

Clinton’s visit capped a three-day trip to North Africa that included stops in Algeria and Tunisia, where she met with representatives from Morocco and 70 other nations and international organizations in the “Friends of Syria” coalition. In Rabat, Clinton praised “the important role that Morocco has played” in leading the international effort on Syria, “first within the Arab League and second within the Security Council.” Morocco began a two-year term on the UN Security Council in January, and last month presented a UN Security Council resolution on Syria that won broad support from the international community.

“Personally, I was very pleased to see Sec. Clinton once again reiterate strong US support for Morocco’s autonomy initiative as a continuing US policy aimed at finally resolving the Western Sahara issue,” said Michael Ussery, former US Ambassador to Morocco.  “This is now the third time Secretary Clinton has made it clear that US policy views Morocco’s initiative as ‘serious, credible, and realistic,’ and has encouraged an end to the dispute based on a reasonable political compromise that best serves the interests of the people and the region as a whole.”

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