Remarks from Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Mezouar at Third US-Morocco Strategic Dialogue
Delivered April 9, 2015 at the State Department:
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, good morning, everybody. I’m very pleased to welcome my friend, the Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar, and his delegation for the third session of the Strategic Dialogue between the United States and Morocco.
A year ago, the foreign minister hosted me and my delegation in Morocco, in Rabat, and we had a wonderful, wonderful visit there. As everybody knows, Moroccans have an extraordinarily rich culture that is shown in many ways, and I’m happy to say one of the ways is in treating guests to a delicious meal that is actually seven or eight meals disguised as one. Their hospitality is truly spectacular. And I very, very much hope to work with our superb representative in Rabat, Ambassador Dwight Bush, in order to see if I can have a chance to visit again, which we have talked about, and which I very much hope to do.
The U.S.-Moroccan Dialogue is grounded in a very longstanding friendship, and it’s real. It extends back to 1777, when Morocco recognized the independence of the United States. And we have initiated this particular dialogue because we feel that our leaders want to make certain that people understand that we have to do much more than just celebrate our history, we have to build the future. And that’s what we’re working on doing. By working together, we can help shape a future in which our citizens will be safer, they’ll be more prosperous, and where builders, not destroyers, will be strengthened and be the people who really define and write the history and meet the expectations of our people.
There can be no question that our meeting today is timely. The amount of time that we have to talk literally flew by, and we scratched the surface of many of the challenges that we face. And I thank my friend, Salaheddine, for his wisdom, for the breadth of his vision that he brings to the table in the challenges – in meeting the challenges that we face together.
Events in Africa and in the Middle East have presented all of us with a new mix of challenge. It’s different than it has been. It’s fast moving. There’s more sectarianism than any of us want, many times disguised in religion – not representing real religion but disguised in ways that are calculated to affect the minds of people and, unfortunately, set them on a course of violence and destruction.
Our delegations really look forward to reviewing today all of the aspects of this regional situation that we face together. There’s no one country that’s going to solve this. It’s going to take all of us working effectively together and it’s also going to take time. But we know that we have a very firm foundation on which to build.
Morocco is a major non-NATO ally of the United States and is the only country in Africa with which we have a free trade agreement, for example. It has successfully completed a productive compact with the Millennium Challenge Corporation and it recently hosted a well-attended Global Entrepreneurial Summit. And in July, it will serve as a venue for an important international meeting on climate change.
So Morocco is doing more than its fair share of contributing to the global dialogue on the issues of the day. And today our working groups are going to focus on four areas, including security cooperation. And here, my government commends Morocco for serving as co-chair of the Global Counterterrorism Forum’s campaign to prevent the recruitment of foreign terrorist fighters. Morocco is also a member of the anti-Daesh coalition. And since that coalition came together, it is a fact that Daesh has been pushed back significantly, and the result of that is that it is becoming increasingly dependent on its ability to be able to attract foreign fighters. And that means that we have to redouble our own efforts to persuade – and if necessary, prevent – young people from making the fatal mistake of signing up. And Morocco is a leader in our efforts to do that.
Also this year, Morocco will host African Lion, which is an annual military exercise that will continue next month. It includes several of our European and African partners. And in this era, it is essential that our armed forces experience working together, so that if a humanitarian or any other kind of emergency arises, we will be able to respond effectively before it is too late. Interoperability is a critical concept in the context of today’s challenges.
Other security-related topics that we’ll be covering today include the unrest in Libya, where we spent a fair amount of time talking a few minutes ago, where Morocco has supported and hosted UN negotiations and is undertaking a major leadership role in helping to find a path forward. And I was encouraged today in the comments of the foreign minister about the approach that is unfolding over the course of these next weeks.
Morocco is also taking steps to reform its justice sector, to professionalize its police force, to promote the rule of law, and strengthen its border security and its counterterrorist capabilities. The United States strongly backs all of these initiatives, and we will do everything that we can to be helpful as Morocco pursues success in each of those sectors.
A second area of discussion today concerns our growing economic and energy ties. Our free trade agreement is now almost a decade old, and it has already yielded very positive results for both sides. But we want to do better; we want to do more. We know we can. And so we’re going to talk this morning about how to ensure that the free trade agreement benefits grow in a balanced and more expansive way.
We’ll also talk about increasing our business-to-business contacts, intensifying two-way investment, and Morocco’s plan to generate at least 40 percent of its electricity from renewable sources of energy.
In Morocco, as elsewhere, young people are the key to the future. The average age in Morocco is increasing now, but unemployment rates for those people who are 15 to 24 years old and not in school still remain high. It’s a challenge. It’s a challenge everywhere, by the way. And we hope that the government’s efforts to grow the economy, coupled with a $38 million agreement through USAID, will provide the nation’s youth with the confidence and the skills that they need to make the critical leap from school to paycheck, to a good job for the long-term future.
A third focus of our dialogue concerns the value of education and people-to-people contacts. Morocco has embarked on a program of comprehensive education reforms, designed to lift the standards and provide greater opportunity to young people, to women and girls particularly. And here again, the United States is helping through a $25 million USAID grant to improve achievement at the primary school level. We’re also excited about the J. Christopher Stevens Virtual Exchange Initiative that was launched by the United States and Moroccan students this spring.
Our fourth area for discussion will highlight public institutions and civil society. The international turbulence of recent years shows how absolutely vital it is to be able to provide a peaceful outlet for political expression and to maintain governing structures that are sustained by the full support of their national populations. Morocco has the potential to be a model – the model, if you will.
But as we know from our own experience in the United States, building resilient and robust democratic institutions is a long-term job. We’re still working at it. We have our own challenges, and we know that. And so we talk with appropriate humility about any other country’s challenge, but we’re all in this together and we all have to draw from each other’s experiences and work together. Accordingly, we welcome Morocco’s effort to strengthen political parties and to give space to civil society in advance of the national elections.
We also respect His Majesty King Mohammed VI’s spiritual authority as a faith leader and his consistent and vocal opposition to any use of religion to justify violence against innocent persons.
In closing, let me just say that the foreign minister and I and our teams have a lot to discuss, as you can tell. And I very much look forward to having this discussion over the course of the day in the warmth and friendship that really does define this relationship. So I’m very pleased to yield my – the floor to my colleague and my friend, Foreign Minister Mezouar. Thank you. (Applause.)
FOREIGN MINISTER MEZOUAR: (Via interpreter.) Thank you, John, and dear friend. First of all, I would like to thank you for your kind words, for your hospitality, and for making your teams available. They worked hard. I would like to congratulate them.
And as you said, dear friend, we are two friendly countries and we have been longstanding friends, and this friendship in our context today is a fundamental basis to move ahead. It’s the fundamental basis that will allow us to face the transformations of today’s worlds with all of its complexities. And I think that our meeting of today as part of the strategic dialogue is the best message that we could convey together to say there aren’t just problems, but there’s also some progress being made. Humanity advances via crises, but also thanks to ability to ensure that progress may also be made.
I applaud – I salute the excellent relationship that we share, and this relationship that allows us doing meetings such as this one, but also doing very brief meetings that this relationship allows us to deal very quickly on the various topics, because you have the same assessments, the same analyses, but above all, we are members of the same bloc, the bloc of freedom, the camp of peace, that of democracy – the bloc of universal values, the bloc that defends the most disenfranchised, and also the bloc of solidarity. I think that these are the values that we share, and they allow us to always work with great peace of mind, to work together on the fundamental topics.
We met a year ago in Morocco, and of course, we were delighted to host you. Yes indeed, we shared some good meals, but we shared other meals, and namely our shared vision of what we wanted to be, of what we wanted to do. Morocco is a country, as you observed – is a country which is moving ahead. It’s a country which has built its model – its model of development, which is based on values, on institutions which are solid and strong. This is a country which has a history, and this history makes it stronger. This history helps us also via the reforms process that are continuing. Reforms never stop and they can never stop, because the world is moving. Societies are moving, are changing. And since the world and societies are moving and changing, well, reforms must also continue to move and change just like a society must continue to move and advance.
So Morocco does indeed appear to be this harbor of peace in a disrupted, disturbed, and ailing region of the world. We share our experiences with others, we provide our contribution, we engaged in the fight against ignorance, against extremism, because there is no war of religions, there’s no war of civilizations, but there’s a fight against ignorance. And that means that what we are engaged in together has meaning, because it’s the world as we see it, it’s societies as we perceive them, which are the engines of our actions, which are the engines of our relationships.
So I’m happy that today, once again, of the opportunity of this third strategic dialogue, that we’re able to notice that our relationship is vivacious. The advantages of these meetings that allows us to be constantly creative. They allow us to be constantly – say to yourselves we must ensure that this exceptional relationship, that this quality of relationship, it has to be supplied, it has to be complete – constantly fed, supplied; otherwise it will stagnate and it will regress.
So we are engaged in a virtuous, positive logic between our two countries. And here I would like to pay greater tribute to Ambassador Bush, who is doing a wonderful job. And also I would like to pay tribute to your teams at the State Department, who are also doing wonderful work to bring people together, to come up with imaginative things to create. I wish – would be remiss if I failed to pay tribute to our own ambassador, who is also working hard to ensure that constantly this exceptional relationship be preserved, sustained.
We talked about problems in our region. Here I would like to say two or three messages. The first message about Libya: Libya, as you know, the dialogue is taking place in Morocco, in serenity, in a state – atmosphere of responsibility. The Libyan people want peace; they want stability. The various components of the dialogue have been determined. There is a real awareness. The Libyans are capable of making peace. The Libyans are capable of getting along and the Libyans are capable of building a future within a framework of stability, as part of a modern society, an open society, with institutions that will allow them to deploy their wonderful energy. They do have that energy that will allow them to move ahead in the construction of their country, but also in the construction of the region.
Libyans need to be supported. We are engaged in a phase where the fundamental principles of the agreement have been accepted. Today, we must give this momentum and we must say and affirm that they are capable of making peace. They are capable of moving towards a political solution that will help them to overcome the difficulties that they have today.
So this is an opportunity to applaud the efforts of Bernardino Leon, who is working with great tact, with great engagement, but also applaud the various factions, the various protagonists who are engaged in the dialogue. And I am convinced that next week’s meeting will make it possible to move towards a definitive solution.
And why – I would also like to mention Yemen. We must, above all, understand that it is no longer possible to allow that in countries affected by this type of instability that legitimacy be swept aside by anyone. We must bring order back and respect. There was a dialogue and this dialogue was supposed to lead to the organization of a national unity government that would lead to new elections and representation. When units or factions start believing that, given they have a few militaries or some assets, they can destabilize states, the message that has to be retained is that – that has to be conveyed that this is fundamental. It has to be firm. It is no longer allowed that any minority, that any faction, should be able to destabilize the foundations of a state, because destabilizing the foundations of a state will bring us back to situations of insecurity, instability, always difficult to solve and which generally profit – benefit to those who know but we never think about.
So Morocco is determined, vis-a-vis values and principles. Morocco is engaged in the fight against extremism but also engaged in the fight against any type of destabilization which would lead to anarchy. So Morocco is engaged in the commission and it’s also engaged in this coalition for Yemen on the basis of values but also based on a value – on a vision of the dynamic to which the Middle East region must join, generally speaking.
I would also wish to emphasize the fact that the fight against extremism and the determination with which the coalition is acting is starting to produce results. These results are encouraging. This also encourages the Government of Iraq, which is responsible – its officials and its army – to come up with a solution that will make it possible to eradicate all forms of extremism and to fight against terrorism. So these are all – as many actions of the international community. And thanks to your leadership, dear friend, and we are all determined towards this action.
But I would also bring your attention to another aspect that should not be overlooked, that should not be forgotten. I would like to applaud your tenacity on the Israeli-Palestinian issue and on peace in this region. With determination, you led difficult negotiations. I think that this process is not over. With – this process must continue. The statement of Mr. Netanyahu is placing the international community in front of its real responsibilities, but we must never forget that peace in the Middle East will never take place as long as peace and stability in that region of the world, and especially as part of Israeli-Palestinian conflict has not been achieved.
His Majesty, the King is engaged via the committee accords to constantly provide this indispensable support to the Palestinians and particularly to the holy sites. These sites have to be protected. This is part of the heritage of humanity. They have to be protected for mankind. And Morocco, which is also engaged in this process of resumption of the dialogue, of discussion with the Quartet that had been designed by the Arab League, which had its meeting last Monday, in order to explain that we need a resumption of the process and the dialogue on the basis of engagements of the international community on behalf of the solution of two states, as it was defined – namely, the process that you have conducted yourself. Morocco will host the Summit of the Arab League next year in Morocco, and some very important topics will be on the agenda. And of course, Morocco is engaged in peace and in the rapprochement and the dialogue. This is fundamental because this period, this timeframe that we’re experiencing is sensitive, it’s explosive, and Morocco, thanks to the momentum, His Majesty, the King, is assuming the role of leadership, which is its own.
Morocco is also progressing on some various issues. You talked about them. There are two topics about which we have made some real progress – the issue of women, first of all, which was a struggle, a momentum. And thanks to His Majesty, there was this momentum. And this liberation that was conducted created for this amazing energy and skills in Morocco, and also the issue of youth. And this is an issue, of course, that we have not been working just since today. Morocco has always integrated – as part of its vision of development of society and of economic and social development, we integrate the training and the education of the youth as part of a strategy of development which is our own, and this is yielding good results, but we must continue to work even harder.
And this was part of the Global Entrepreneurial Summit that we were – had the pleasure of hosting, and you had the – gave us the honor of attending this. And this was a wonderful opportunity to show the amazing pool of talent that Morocco has in terms of creativity, of unyielding all of this power, and these means that will allow the youth to take its role and play its responsibility in the development of society. And of course, Morocco remains available to provide this expertise, this experience, as part of the upcoming summit which will take place in Nairobi, I believe, in July.
So Morocco is advancing with great serenity. Reforms are important, but in greater serenity they are done, the better it is. And it is acknowledged, appropriated by society. It is acknowledged by the political forces and the components of society. Morocco is advancing. We know we have to conduct reforms. We are conducting reforms and we’re expanding the field of liberation and of energies, and that makes the strength of our country. The strength of our country comes on the fact that we are liberating energies, and we have a leadership, because this leadership is modern. This leadership is progressive. This leadership is democratic. This leadership believes in human values.
His Majesty plays this role of leadership, but also, given the fact that we were able to build for more than a half century a momentum of political diversity and of political dialogue and of political representation, which this all allows us, indeed, to manage our differences with political alternative, with a democracy, with serenity and responsibility – and all of these things are things that we share with you, because the world also needs examples. Our relationship is an example because it is serene, it is responsible, because it looks to the future. And we all – Morocco is also an example that we share with other countries. And the stability of the region is fundamental. Previously, we mentioned the issue of the Sahara – Moroccan Sahara, and we emphasized on the fact that Morocco is a country that always looks to the future to build the future. Morocco provided concrete responses and concrete solutions via the autonomy proposal. This proposal is a proposal which moves towards integration but also towards the facilitation of the construction of the Maghreb space, and this on behalf of the populations, on behalf of the various countries.
So Morocco is a player that always looks at things positively. We have turned the page of the 25th century – we’re on the 21st century, and the 21st century has its own logic, and this logic says we must always be in a positive momentum, provide positive contributions, seek solutions, overcome the static systems of history which disrupt populations, which disrupt relations between countries. So Morocco wants to move ahead.
And we would like to thank you for the role that you play, the – your engagement on behalf of this virtuous dynamic that we want to move towards in this region with respect to the resolution of a problem which has been invented for 40 years, and which affects our territorial integrity. So these always many subjects which are important that we share, but I – once again, I would like to say I do know that you have a plane to catch. I would like to thank you for your friendship, for your availability towards Morocco. We’ll have – we have opportunities to meet once in a while in always various different locations, but these are very special moments, and we wanted to share them intensely with you on behalf of our relationship, on behalf of the friendship which unites our people here. I would like to pay tribute to the entire team which is here today, the three groups which are working, which are – the four groups, pardon me – four groups which are moving ahead with determination to provide content and to strengthen the economic component that is a momentum that has its own progression.
I would just like to conclude with one point which is important to us and that we share with you – Africa. Africa is the continent that we have to invest in. Morocco is engaging, it’s providing its experience, its expertise. We are providing our investments. We are providing human development. Morocco is providing this dimension of religious moderation which is fundamental today as part of the relationship and the stability and the stabilization of societies. We are engaged and will continue to be engaged.
When His Majesty, the King met President Obama, decided that this would be a thrust of the partnership between our countries, will provide it with more and more contact by engaging ourselves. We do know that the issue of energy is important, therefore our shared expertise should help towards, move in this dimension the issue of food security and the stabilization of populations, human development – really just development, but also investments. Morocco is the first investor, African investor in west – in Central Africa. So we are the largest African investor, which means that Morocco is engaged in this dynamic of development stabilization of Africa, which is a wonderful continent, which is a continent which has huge potential, and also needs to know that it has friends and friends that are – have wanted well, and since – we have good wishes for this continent and we’ll continue to work towards that.
Thank you once again, dear John. Thank you to all of you.