Remarks With Moroccan Foreign Minister Taieb Fassi-Fihri

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Marrakech, Morocco
November 2, 2009

FOREIGN MINISTER FASSI-FIRHI: (Via interpreter) In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful, first of all, I wish to apologize in my name and on behalf of my colleague, the Honorable Secretary of State, for this delay over which we had no control, considering that we have had many bilateral and regional meetings.

So we shall now convene the Forum for the Future. However, beforehand, I wish on behalf of His Majesty’s government, express our heartfelt and earnest gratitude to the Honorable Speaker. Secretary of State wanted to confer a bilateral dimension by honoring us and gracing us with her presence here in the Kingdom of Morocco. And effectively, the Secretary of State entertained meetings with His Majesty, The King today in Ouarzazate, as you all know, and also with me before and after the said meeting.

First of all, we have resolved to give a strong impetus to our bilateral relations, traditional relations of friendship and mutual understanding that were given strong impetus under the Clinton Administration. And I would say that ever since, our relations have continued to grow. However, today, we stand ready to give it further impetus so as to deepen and strengthen our partnership and to give a new dimension to our strategic political dialogue between Rabat and Washington with regard to what has taken place within the African continent as a whole, within North Africa as well as in the Arab Maghreb and also in the Middle East and in other areas where we are facing issues of great importance.

And I also wish, on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, to express the extent to which we give great importance to what – through the actions and deeds of – and the positions of President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton so as to (inaudible) our bilateral and multilateral positions. And we also observe and keep a close eye on the importance of investing further our energy in entertaining issues of importance to our region and to the Middle East.

So these are my words as I have spoken before I give you the floor to ask your questions, and with a particular focus to the decision and the resolve – the resolution that was made during the bilateral meeting between the Secretary of State and His Majesty, The King in terms of strengthening our bilateral relations.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Foreign Minister Fassi-Fihri. I appreciate the very positive day that we have had here in Morocco. On a personal note, it is wonderful to be back in this country, a country with such extraordinary history and culture, and to be here this time representing President Obama and the United States as Secretary of State.

Many of you know that Morocco was the very first nation to recognize the United States. And our Treaty of Peace and Friendship has been in force since 1787, making ours the longest unbroken treaty relationship in my country’s history. And the people of the United States are proud of our friendship with the Moroccan people and we are grateful for what this partnership has accomplished for more than two centuries, and we look forward to the future.

This morning, the foreign minister and I had a very productive conversation about a range of issues, including our shared goal of strengthening stability and prosperity throughout North Africa and the Middle East. I’m looking forward to participating tomorrow in the Forum for the Future, and I look forward also to working with the foreign minister on the issues that come from this forum.

The Forum for the Future is a gathering dedicated to creating the broadest possible network of partnerships in pursuit of common goals. It brings together not only government ministers, but representatives from civil society. And I am grateful too that we will work on the important issues confronting us – from regional security, economic development, religious tolerance, social reforms – because none of these goals can be accomplished through laws or governments alone. They require a broad coalition of likeminded people who translate laws into lasting change.

I particularly appreciate the opportunity I had this afternoon to meet with His Majesty King Mohammed VI. Like many countries, the United States has watched with great admiration the progress that Morocco has achieved under his leadership and the democratically elected Government of Morocco. Together, under His Majesty’s leadership, this government has passed reforms that have made new opportunities available to people who didn’t have the chance before to participate fully in the political, social, and economic life of their country.

It will not surprise you to hear that I want particularly to praise the reforms that have granted new freedoms to women who are now bringing their talents and energy to bear in strengthening democratic institutions, accelerating economic growth, and broadening the work of civil society. These opportunities have flourished for the Moroccan people amid an environment of religious tolerance, another example of how government leadership with the support of civil and religious institutions can create conditions in which people and communities thrive.

During my meeting with His Majesty this afternoon in Ouarzazate, I witnessed the launch of the King’s renewable energy initiative, an infrastructure program that will include American solar and steam technology. I know I speak for the American scientists and entrepreneurs who design these technologies in saying how happy we are that their work can help bring clean energy to Morocco. We also discussed the Free Trade Agreement, the Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact. Our collaboration includes the Peace Corps as well as new entrepreneurial and economic initiatives, and we work together on counterterrorism, trying to stop the scourge of trafficking in drugs and persons, promoting human rights, and creating an atmosphere of regional stability.

So, Minister, I have come to Morocco to echo and amplify President Obama’s message of partnership and respect, and we will work together to advance our shared goals of security, prosperity, and opportunity. Much of what you have done can serve as a model for other nations, and I believe that this model can benefit people not only here in Morocco, but those who care about increasing the opportunities for a better life for all people. Thank you, sir.

FOREIGN MINISTER FASSI-FIRHI: Thank you very much. (Via interpreter) You may ask your questions now.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Thank you. (Inaudible), Mrs. Clinton, you have met with His Majesty the King this afternoon for a little over an hour. I wish to know what is it that you have talked about, and what is your assessment of the Moroccan experience in the area of democracy, human rights, and in governance? And these are the subjects to be addressed by the Forum of the Future in this present edition.

SECRETARY CLINTON: I think that Morocco has made significant progress in those three areas. I believe that there is more work to be done, but that is a challenge that faces many countries. But what is significant about Morocco and about the King’s leadership is the commitment that has been shown to the improvement of the lives of the Moroccan people.

I think that over the last 10 years, there has been a number of very important measurements of progress, and I discussed with His Majesty his hopes and his commitments to continuing the progress, to building on it; our bilateral relationship, which is very meaningful to both of our countries; how we can deepen and broaden our work together, which we are committed to doing, and the foreign minister and I have discussed our intention to do that. We spoke about some of the regional and international issues that are of concern to both of our nations.

It was a very substantive, productive conversation. It also had some personal elements to it because I was very pleased toward the end of my husband’s term in office to have us be able to host the then new King at the White House. And we know each other’s families. We have a friendship, and it is of great, great import to me.

So we had a very broad-ranging conversation and laid out a set of issues that we’re going to continue to work on. And I hope for signs of even more progress here in Morocco and more broadly.

QUESTION: Thank you. Madame Secretary, as part of its Mideast peace diplomacy, the Obama Administration has asked Arab governments to take some confidence-building steps toward Israel. A number of the governments represented here this week have said that your remarks in Jerusalem may have undermined that effort. I know you clarified those remarks this morning, but have you reissued your confidence-building appeal here in Marrakesh, and what response have you gotten? Also, your spokesman has just announced that you’ll be traveling to Egypt on Wednesday to meet with President Mubarak, and I wonder if you could tell us what you hope to accomplish during that visit.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Karen, none of the leaders here at all characterized what I said as in any way representing a change in position. They engaged with me at length about what it is that Israel is offering, why I believe it is unprecedented. We discussed how the position of the Obama Administration has not changed. We do not believe that settlements are legitimate. We have said that repeatedly, and we have made that clear to the Israelis, the Arabs, the Palestinians, and the world.

It is important, however, in any kind of discussion to get the facts out on the table. And I think a number of my counterparts were not aware that what the Israeli Government is offering would be an end to all new settlement activity in the West Bank, it would be an end to expropriation, it would mean an end to any permits or approvals. It is not enough. It is not what many people in the region and elsewhere would want to see, but it is fair to characterize it as unprecedented. And we discussed it, and I made clear that when we praise what the Palestinians do on security, it is meant to send a signal that progress is underway and it is progress toward a two-state solution. When I say that the Israeli Government is making an unprecedented offer, even though it is not what many would hope for, and even though our position remains the same that settlement activity is not legitimate, nevertheless, it holds out the promise of moving a step closer to a two-state solution.

So I think that our conversation was very, very open. It had – it touched on many aspects of not only the Israeli-Palestinian situation but other situation as well. And it kept coming back to what our goal is. Our goal is to give the aspirations of the Palestinian people a reality, namely their own state, and to have sovereignty and control over their future. That is my goal, that has been my goal for many years, and we’re going to continue to work toward achieving that goal.

With respect to your second question, we are continuing our consultations in the region. I had the opportunity to consult here with many counterparts from the greater region. Because of a predetermined commitment, neither the foreign ministers of Iraq or of Egypt were able to be here, so we will be going to Egypt to continue these consultations. And it evidences the very strong commitment that President Obama, Senator Mitchell, and myself have to this effort.

FOREIGN MINISTER FASSI-FIHRI: May I maybe, just on behalf of the Arab world, try to say to you that how we appreciate the role, key role, played by the new U.S. Administration, how we follow (inaudible) encourage what Madame Secretary of State did the last months and will continue to do. And naturally, His Majesty as the president of Jerusalem Committee in the context of OIC, and Morocco with its tradition, because we believe since a long time that the peace is possible and the vision of two states it’s the best things, and the negotiations will help to reach this important institutional goal. Then we have to continue and we are sure that thanks to this contact what we heard from Madame Secretary today and what we can also humbly contribute for, we will help each other for this important goal of peace between all Arabs and Israel.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, change of subject, if I may. During the past few years, the United States, just like other members of the Security Council, have characterized the Moroccan initiative for autonomy in the Sahara as being serious and credible. My question is: Does the Obama Administration stand by that position? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes. Our policy has not changed, and I thank you for asking the question because I think it’s important for me to reaffirm here in the Morocco that there has been no change in policy.

MODERATOR: Last question maybe.

QUESTION: Thank you. Madame Secretary, regarding Iran, there’s increased concern that Iran is not going to follow through on the offer made by the United States and other members of the Security Council regarding the shipment of LEU outside of its borders. I was hoping you could give us some sense on what you discussed concerning Iran today and what measures are being discussed with members of the GCC and other Arab states about increasing pressure on Iran if they don’t come through going forward.

And for the minister, I would just hope we get some comment from you on the what the feeling is amongst the Arab states about the threat from Iran’s nuclear program, as it doesn't seem to be responding to international offers.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, Jay. We had a very good discussion about Iran. I brought the GCC+3 members up to date. I explained that the P-5+1, including Russia and France and the United States, which are directly involved in the mechanics of this proposal, as well as the other members – China, Germany, the United Kingdom, and of course, the European Union – are absolutely united that we continue to press the Iranians to accept fully the proposal that has been made, which they accepted in principle. The IAEA continues to work with them to answer any questions that they have.

And we do not yet have a final disposition, but I want to reiterate that this is a pivotal moment for Iran. Acceptance fully of this proposal which we have put forth and which we are unified behind would be a good indication that Iran does not wish to be isolated and does wish to cooperate with the international community and fulfill their international responsibilities. And we urge Iran to accept the agreement as proposed because we are not altering it – it is the proposal that they agreed to in principle – so that we can move forward and work with Iran on a full range of issues, including but not limited to their nuclear program.

FOREIGN MINISTER FASSI-FIHRI: (Via interpreter) With regard to Iran, of course, Morocco says that this is an ancient civilization that has great regional importance, but at the same time we want for Iran to respect others and to entertain good relations unto others and also to comply with international conventions so that the entire region be able to enjoy peace and security that we give Iran the opportunity to take part in the joint effort to develop the region, this region that is, as you know, fraught with sensitivities – the Middle East.

I thank you all so much.

PRN: 2009/T14-27