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 You are in: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice > Former Secretaries of State > Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell > Speeches and Remarks > 2003 > December

Interview With Mr. Chihab Zeriouh, Radio Diffusion-Television Marocaine (RTM-TV)

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Marrakech, Morocco
December 3, 2003


QUESTION: Mr. Colin Powell, we are glad to meet you and to receive you via the Moroccan Television. Mr. Secretary of State, this is your second visit to Morocco. We notice that the U.S. and U.S.-Moroccan relationship is tightened on different levels. Generally speaking, how can you describe these relations as they are now between the two countries?

SECRETARY POWELL: I would say our relations are excellent, and getting better. There are a number of initiatives under the way such as the Free Trade Agreement that we hope will be concluded by the end of the year.

The cooperation that we are having with Morocco with respect to the issue of the Western Sahara and Mr. Bakerís plan, and we hope weíll see progress in that regard in the near future.

We have shown our support for Morocco by increasing by a factor of four our economic and other kinds of assistance to Morocco and doubling the assistance that we provide for military purposes.

We look forward to receiving His Majesty and the Prime Minister in the United States sometime early next year. All these things, I think, are indicators of the strength of our relationship, a relationship that has continued unchanged and unhindered for over two hundred years, and we are very proud of it.

QUESTION: As you have mentioned before, Mr. Secretary of State, the relationship between Morocco and the United States is very real in this context. You know much the question of Sahara is important for us, and we would like to know what is the U.S. position concerning this subject with respect to the latest developments.

SECRETARY POWELL: We think that former Secretary Baker has put forward a good proposal and both sides are examining that proposal. We believe itís important for both sides to talk to one other, and thatís how, ultimately, it will be resolved. The United States in no way seeks to impose a solution on either of the parties -- it would not be the appropriate thing to do -- and so we stand strongly behind the Baker Plan, and hope that both sides will find what they need in the Baker Plan, and will discuss the situation with each other to find a way forward. I think time is of the essence, and I hope both sides will reach out to each other in the very near future and begin the necessary discussions.

QUESTION: Mr. Powell, lately the United States has invited Morocco and Algeria to serious dialogue to resolve this major issue. What chances are you giving to this initiative?

SECRETARY POWELL: I donít know that I can give it a percentage. I think it is in the interest of all parties, of Morocco, Algeria, the other parties that have more than a passing interest in it  -- the citizens of the Western Sahara -- the people who live there. All parties have an interest in, in moving forward quickly, and so the outlines of a solution are there, they are contained in the Baker Plan, and we are waiting for the sides to respond fully to the Baker Plan, and then to begin to discussions with each other. The sooner that happens, I think the better off we will be. And I keep focusing on the need for the two sides to talk to each other -- just to make the point  --  that the United States does not intend to impose a solution on any of the parties.

QUESTION: The United States and Morocco have been, as you have mentioned, been negotiating this Free Trade Agreement -- FTA for short  --  since the beginning of this year. These negotiations are raising up a number of issues, namely in the agricultural sector. As you may know, this sector is socially rated or very important to Morocco since, almost fifty percent of the population lives in rural areas. Is the United States aware of this fact, and how can it be taken into consideration in these negotiations?

SECRETARY POWELL: We are very much aware of the fact that small agricultural interests, farmers, and those who raise livestock are concerned about the Free Trade Agreement; will they be subject to new sorts of competitive pressures that might not be in their interest? And as the negotiations proceed, you can be sure that the United Statesí side will take these social considerations very much into mind. I know that the Moroccan delegation on the free trade negotiations will be heading to the United States in the next several days to meet with our free trade negotiator, Ambassador Zoellick, and I hope that they will find -- and I am confident they will find -- Ambassador Zoellick aware of these issues and open to finding solutions that will allow us to go forward and achieve a Free Trade Agreement by the end of the year.

QUESTION: So we hope. A Free Trade Agreement is not an end in itself. What are the other economic axes of cooperation, which shall be prevalent in the relation between Morocco and the Unites States?

SECRETARY POWELL: No. Youíre exactly right, a Free Trade Agreement does not solve every problem. Morocco has a need for economic support assistance, and -- as I indicated -- we are significantly increasing the amount of funds that we are providing to Morocco. We will continue to encourage Morocco to cooperate in opening trade throughout the region with its neighbors, and as you know President Bush has a vision of a Free Trade Area that extends across all of North Africa, the Maghreb, into the Middle East, all the way over to Iraq, as a way of stimulating trade, as a way of removing barriers, and as a way of giving encouragement to people, that all of their economies will benefit.

But a Free Trade Agreement often requires changes in the way a country conducts its business; you have to get rid of bureaucratic impediments to free trade, you cannot have too many difficult legal tests and too many difficult laws that make it too hard for people to trade with you, or to invest -- in your country. So I hope Morocco -- as it moves down the road of free trade agreements and broader trade agreements in the region will be looking at how its commercial law works, how it encourages people to invest in Morocco, or does it discourage people from investing, because of regulations and bureaucracies?

Every country has to do that; my own country is going through that now. We have free trade agreements with countries in our own hemisphere and many other countries around the world, and it reshapes our economy, it reshapes our bureaucracy and laws, and thatís one of the requirements of free trading agreements, and one of the benefits of free trading agreements. It tends to simplify economic activity.

QUESTION: Morocco is often described by the American administration as model, a model country for this region, with respect not (only) to the democratic developments, but also to the economic reforms led by His Majesty the King. And, Mr. Powell, we would like to know your comments on these developments and reforms.

SECRETARY POWELL: We are very impressed by what His Majesty has done on economic openness and economic development. And very impressed by what His Majesty has done with respect to political reform. The Family Law Proposal that is now being considered by the Cabinet and will then go to the Parliament I think is very innovative. And it shows to the world -- it shows to the region -- and, of course shows the people of Morocco how the King is interested in bringing women fully into society and protecting their rights, and protecting the rights of children. This is bold, enlightened leadership, of the kind that I think President Bush has spoken about, as needed throughout this part of the world.

We live in world now where you have to take advantage of all of the human capital that is available to you. Women, the disabled -- who may still be able to contribute to the society -- making sure that young people coming up are getting the education they need -- not just to read and write -- to get a skill, something that they can earn a living from, and something that they can use to contribute to the building of a society. And I think the Family Law reforms, the other things that His Majesty has done, with respect to electoral reform, with respect to regional elections, all of these actions show that His Majesty understands the kind of changes that are needed in society -- and all societies -- as we move into the twenty-first century, a different environment than the century we left a few years ago.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary of State, letís move to international issues. First, the Israeli and Palestinian conflict, which is of great interest for the whole international community. As you may know, the Moroccan population strongly wonders about the future of the Palestinian population. Where does the Road Map stand now? And are the United States ready to do their best so that a suitable and just solution is found for the whole region?

SECRETARY POWELL: The United Statesí vision is a clear one, and President Bush has expressed it on several occasions: we want to create a Palestinian state, for the Palestinian people, a state that lives side by side in peace with the State of Israel. The Road Map leads to that objective. The Road Map is there; we still support it, there is no change to the support that we have for the Road Map.

The problem we have had is that the Palestinian leadership has been fragmented. Abu Mazen, the former Prime Minister, was unable to get all the security forces under his control so he could go after terrorism. I hope that the new Prime Minister, Abu Ala, will be able to do a better job in going after terrorism, and going after those who foment terrorist activity on the part of the Palestinians.

We are prepared to insist that the Israelis lead their obligations under the Road Map, but what has stopped us repeatedly over the last three years of our administration, is every time we get the Road Map going, terrorists stop it by blowing up buses, by killing innocent children, usually Israeli children are being killed. And then comes the predictable response from the Israeli side is they take actions to defend themselves.

Whatís lost in all of this -- and not just the lives of innocent people -- whatís lost are the dreams of the Palestinian people for their own state. That state is waiting for them, but the Palestinian people and the Palestinian leaders have to make a decision: that they can no longer support, encourage, tolerate terrorism; they have to fight terrorism, and they have to fight those organizations -- Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and others -- who are causing terrorism to happen. And once that stops, then I think the Road Map is a way forward. There are other ideas there -- an idea was unveiled in Geneva earlier this week. Letís look at other ideas but the Road Map is not an idea, it is a reality, and it is our plan. It is the plan the United States put forward.

QUESTION: One question Mr. Powell, if you donít mind, is the situation in Iraq, which remains preoccupying our minds, and are the United States came to find a solution so as the Iraqis take authority and govern themselves, by themselves?

SECRETARY POWELL: Absolutely. We would like to do it today, but we have to make sure that when we do pass authority and sovereignty back to the Iraqi people, it is to an Iraqi government that is responsible, and that has the capability to use that authority. It should be a government that has legitimacy with its people through a law, and through elections.

There will be an interim step -- to have an interim assembly, an interim basic law, and then an interim leadership -- and then take the time necessary to write a full constitution and to have full elections. We donít want to leave before there is a responsible government in place.

But I can assure you, if that responsible government was in place today, we would leave today. But we will not leave the Iraqi people at a disadvantage. We will not walk out on them. We have gotten rid of a terrible dictator, we have gotten rid of a regime -- led by Saddam Hussein -- that filled mass graves, and that used chemicals against its own people and against its neighbors. That regime is gone. And we intend with our coalition partners and working with Iraqis to leave in place a better government.

And we already can see that the Iraqis are debating with each other how this government should be formed, what it should look like. Let that debate go on. We will work with the Iraqi leaders, but they are the ones who will have to decide the nature of their government and who will be the leaders of that government. That is a choice for Iraqis, not Americans.

QUESTION: Mr. Colin Powell, Secretary of State of the United States of America, thank you for receiving us and giving us this opportunity to meet you, and we hope to see you again and again.


Released on December 3, 2003

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