Topics : Morocco, Western Sahara, USA, Hillary Clinton,
Hillary Clinton’s scheduled February 26 visit to Morocco will very likely be her last trip to Morocco as US Secretary of State. She has made clear that she will not remain in her current position should President Obama win re-election in November. Consequently, her visit later this month will likely represent our best opportunity to secure a commitment from her to make significant progress on several important objectives that we have hoped to achieve during her tenure at the State Department. The visit will offer a good opportunity to consolidate progress made during Foreign Minister Fassi Fihri’s meeting with Secretary Clinton in Washington in March of last year, as well as a new opportunity to take an important step forward in consolidating US support for Morocco’s initiative to resolve the issue in Western Sahara.
Objectives for the Visit
-Secure a public statement of support from the Secretary for Morocco’s reforms and the importance that the US attaches to working with Morocco as a partner in promoting progress in the Middle East and North Africa. In this regard, seek assurance of the Secretary to formally inaugurate the Strategic Dialogue announced one year ago.
-Gain Clinton’s support for committing US development resources to improving the lives of those living in the Southern Provinces as authorized in the December 2011 Omnibus Appropriations Bill that gives the Obama Administration a green light to use US funds in the Sahara provinces.
-Receive a commitment from the Secretary that the Department will respond to the Leahy language in a strong positively worded answer, in order to put this issue to rest, once and for all.
-Encourage the Secretary to reiterate US support for the Moroccan autonomy initiative as “serious, credible and realistic” and to state publicly that events in the region make a resolution of the Western Sahara issue through a political compromise a necessity in order to promote regional cooperation and integration, as well as combat the growing influence and activities of regional terrorist and criminal elements that seek to profit from the uncertainties of Arab Spring developments in the region.
Suggested Points on Western Sahara
-Describe steps Morocco has taken in an effort to improve relations with Algeria and foster a better climate for regional cooperation and resolution of the Sahara. Explain Moroccan perception of the results of these efforts.
-Give Secretary Clinton a full understanding of Morocco’s commitment to resolving this issue as quickly as possible and explain the dangers of continued stalemate, especially as AQIM and other criminal groups seek to destabilize the region.
-Express Morocco’s appreciation for Congress’ authorization for the Obama Administration to use US development assistance funds to help improve the lives of those living in the Southern Provinces. Explain how such actions could help create a better climate for resolving the larger problem in the Sahara. Express willingness to work closely with the State Department and US development agencies to identify programs that could be implemented and suggest that a working level meeting in the near future should be arranged to address this opportunity to enhance US/Morocco efforts on this issue. This will be the one and only signal during her tenure that moves the WS issue incrementally forward. She should see it accomplished before she leaves office. This is one of the two most impactful items Clinton can do with Morocco before leaving office.
-The other issue that would leave an indelible Clinton signature is the US-Moroccan Strategic Dialogue. She should make sure that this Dialogue is established as an on-going process, and that the first meeting is held prior to her leaving office.
-Encourage Secretary Clinton to make a strong public statement of support for the need to resolve the Sahara problem and reiterate the need for compromise as she again expresses the US view of Morocco’s initiative as “serious, credible and realistic.” Anything less will be perceived as the State Department “walking back” previous commitments.
-In this regard reiterate Morocco’s commitment that the refugees in the Algerian camps are welcome to come home and will be assisted in building a new life for themselves and their families.
-Explain the consequences of the Leahy language to the bilateral relations and the perception by the Moroccan population. Specifically explain the importance of an unequivocal and strong positive response from the State Department in this regard in order to lay this issue to rest, once and for all.
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