Secretary Kerry Notes Moroccan Efforts to Counter ‘Foreign Terrorist Fighters’
Washington, DC (September 24, 2014) — At its 5th ministerial meeting held in New York September 23, the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) previewed a number of new counterterrorism initiatives in which Morocco will play a central role, particularly in global efforts to stem “the growing ‘foreign terrorist fighters (FTF)’ phenomenon.”
“I want to thank our colleagues from Morocco and the Netherlands for spearheading the forum’s effort to develop the first global set of good practices on stopping the flow of foreign terrorist fighters, which we will adopt here today,” said US Secretary of State John Kerry in opening remarks at the Forum.
Secretary Kerry was referring to “The Hague – Marrakech Memorandum on Good Practices for a More Effective Response to the FTF Phenomenon,” “intended to inform and guide interested governments as they develop comprehensive policies, programs, and approaches to address the FTF phenomenon.”
A GCTF fact sheet released that day also announced the Open Border Management Initiative, which will be co-led by the US and Morocco in collaboration with the UN Counter-Terrorism Centre (UNCCT) and “will address the challenge of managing open borders, which are sometimes remote and lightly patrolled” and too often serve as conduits for terrorist activities. The initiative will feature workshops that “would bring together border security policymakers and practitioners from countries in different regions” to share expertise, identify good practices and capacity-building programs in the field, and mobilize resources. The inaugural workshop will be hosted by Morocco in late 2014 or early 2015.
Morocco and the US will also announce the Initiative to Foster Cooperation Networks among Justice Sector and Other Law Enforcement Practitioners in the Sahel and Maghreb Regions to “facilitate the sharing of information among justice sector officials in these regions,” coordinate “cross border investigations and prosecutions of terrorism,” and coordinate “extradition and mutual legal assistance requests on terrorism and other related cases.” Such initiatives bolster the strong and longstanding counterterrorism partnership between Morocco and the US, who routinely share intelligence and run joint military exercises.
Morocco has taken a strong public stance against terrorism, and most recently the crimes perpetrated by ISIL. In an August 24 statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Morocco “denounced and condemned, in the strongest terms, the despicable terrorist crimes committed by terrorist groups against innocents of all nationalities, religions and professions, including journalists mainly in Iraq and Syria,” adding that “these terrorist acts run counter Islam teachings and are a blatant abuse of universal human values.” Currently, Morocco’s Parliament is considering a bill that would strengthen anti-terrorism laws, criminalizing the act of attempting to join foreign terrorist groups.