US Under Sec. of State says US-Morocco partnership ‘more important’ than ever, reiterates support for Western Sahara autonomy plan, cites Moroccan reforms
Washington, DC (March 1)—Calling Morocco “a model of economic, social, and political reform,” William J. Burns, Under Secretary for Political Affairs for the US State Department, met with Morocco’s Foreign Minister Taib Fassi Fihri in Rabat Sunday, where he underscored the importance of US-Morocco relations in the current regional unrest, and reaffirmed US backing of Morocco’s autonomy plan to resolve the Western Sahara dispute.
“The partnership between the United States, Morocco and the Moroccan people is a very high priority for President Obama and Secretary Clinton,” said Burns at a joint press briefing with Fassi Fihri in Rabat. “It’s never been more important than at this moment.”
Burns reiterated US support for Morocco’s compromise solution to resolve the decades-long Western Sahara conflict: “The United States continues to believe that the Moroccan autonomy proposal is a serious and credible plan,” he stated at the joint press briefing, reported the Maghreb Arab Press.
“This is a moment of profound change across the region. People are continuing to seek freedom and dignity and opportunity,” said Burns. “Pursuit of those aspirations will take different shapes in different societies,” he said. “In Morocco, there is a strong record of efforts under the leadership of King Mohammed VI to open up opportunities.” Morocco “continues to face many challenges,” but “it’s been a model” of reforms. “Civil society organizations have grown rapidly and there is a will to continue down the path of reform and modernization.”
Fassi Fihri shared Burns assessment of the importance of Rabat-Washington relations and Morocco’s concern with regional events. He said Morocco was closely following international efforts to address the situation in Libya and is concerned about reports of the use of foreign forces in Libya.
“The United States will continue to do everything that we can” to support Morocco’s ongoing reforms and modernization, said Burns, “in the spirit of our partnership through the Millennium Challenge Account, through energetic efforts to expand trade and investment opportunities, including a major American trade mission that intends to come to Morocco in the coming months.”
“Morocco continues to demonstrate its commitment to openness and show that reforms, not repression, are the answer for advancing the rights of its citizens and stability of its civil society,” said Robert Holley, executive director, Moroccan American Center for Policy. “That difference makes Morocco a valuable partner for the US, and an important player in the region. Morocco deserves America’s support, in actions as well as words, to resolve the Western Sahara impasse, which continues to be a source of instability in North Africa.”
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