Background Briefing by Senior State Department Official En Route Algiers

Special Briefing
Senior State Department Official
En Route Algiers
February 25, 2012

MODERATOR: We are en route from Tunisia to Algeria and then later tonight on to Morocco. We have with us [Senior State Department Official], hereafter Senior State Department Official, to set up these two stops.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Hi. Obviously, we are going to two countries that are in a different stage of political development than Tunisia, where we just left. In the case of Algeria, there are parliamentary elections on May 10th. The Algerian Government has invited NDI and the Carter Center to observe those elections. The Secretary will have the opportunity to talk to the Algerian Government about the steps they can take now to encourage wider participation in those elections, to encourage those elections to be reflective of the Algerian popular sentiments.

In Morocco, there were parliamentary elections in November that brought to power an Islamist party, the Party of Justice and Development, which formed a coalition government. And these parliamentary elections in Morocco were the result of constitutional amendments that were promoted by King Mohammed and approved in a referendum. So we’re – it’s a sort of top-down reform process in Morocco, and yet the Secretary will have the opportunity to talk to both (inaudible).

We also have strong partnerships with both countries in terms of broader regional goals and counterterrorism goals. Algeria, for example, just hosted early this month for three days the various sides from Mali to try to forge a solution in a problem in Africa.

Both Morocco and Algeria have been extremely stronger partners with us on counterterrorism. But they have not been as strong of partners with each other, and there’s obviously value added if they can work more closely with each other. We’ve seen signs of increased openness between Rabat and Algiers. We’re working – one of the Secretary’s goals will be to encourage them to be working more closely together.

She’ll also be talking about economic reform in both countries. In Algeria, for example, over 90 percent of export earnings come from one single sector, the hydrocarbon sector. Over 60 percent of government earnings come from hydrocarbon sector. We think that there’s a potential in Algeria, a real potential for greater economic growth, from – through an economic reform process, particularly given that over 70 percent of the population in Algeria is under the age of 35.

It’s worth noting, of course, that Morocco in January took a seat on the Security Council as an elected member of the Security Council for the next two years. Obviously, there’s much to talk about in terms of (inaudible) regional policies regarding Morocco’s role on the Security Council. It’s worth remembering that Morocco introduced on behalf of the Arabs the resolution on Syria that was ultimately vetoed by China and Russia.

So in both countries, we’ll be talking about political and economic reform. They’re taking different approaches to them. We will be encouraging the Algerian Government to take steps to build participation in democratic elections, but much of the discussion talking about regional – regional goals, how Algeria and Morocco can help in Tunisia, in Algeria, in Africa.

PRN: 2012/T60-12