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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

Press Briefing in Morocco

Secretary Colin L. Powell
International Airport
Marrakesh, Morocco
December 3, 2003

SECRETARY POWELL: Good morning ladies and gentlemen. Itís a great pleasure for me to be back in Morocco and I would like to begin by thanking His Majesty and the people of Morocco for their spirit of hospitality and the warm welcome that I received.

Regrettably, my visit is short, but I got a lot in this morning. I had a chance to meet with His Majesty for an hour, and also with the Prime Minister for half an hour. Perhaps the most interesting part of the morning for me, since it was different from the usual conversations I have, was with the young people and civic leaders that I met for an hour in a conference on the future of young people in Moroccan society.

When I come to Morocco, I know that I have come to a place of friendship. Our relationship has a solid foundation and a very rich history stretching back to the beginning of the United States as a nation.

Other things have drawn us together. In May, Moroccans experienced terrorism as we have. And we know that more than ever, together we must fight this evil and build societies that provide opportunity for our peoples.

We have strongly supported the steps Morocco has taken to move into the future: successful elections at the parliamentary level and at the regional level, elections of the first female mayor, and bold reforms proposed for the family code. I congratulate His Majesty for these initiatives. They are the sort of initiatives that President Bush has been speaking about in recent days, about the need to move forward with this kind of reform toward a firm foundation of democracy.

We want to be partners in this effort and our support for Morocco as it fights terrorism and undertakes reform has increased dramatically. Weíll be increasing our economic assistance four-fold over the next several years. Weíll be doubling the support that we provide to military efforts.

Weíre also negotiating a Free Trade Agreement and the Moroccan delegation will be heading to the United States tonight to continue those discussions. And, hopefully, we will have a Free Trade Agreement by the end of the year.

In these free trade discussions we will be very sensitive to the particular situation that exists here in Morocco as a basically a rural society and concerned about the effects of free trade on the agricultural sector. But we are absolutely confident that the Free Trade Agreement will provide abundant, promising new opportunities for Moroccans, as well as for Americans, and that the Free Trade Agreement will benefit all sectors of Moroccan society.

Morocco is an important international partner of the United States, as well. In the Middle East we share a vision of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and democracy. The relationship that Morocco has with both parties will help us achieve that vision. And I thanked His Majesty for the support that he has provided to our efforts to keep moving down the Roadmap when circumstances and conditions permit.

His Majesty and I also talked about Iraq. Our goals in Iraq are the same, as well -- to return control of Iraq to the Iraqi people as soon as possible. And we appreciate Moroccoís support in helping us to achieve that goal, but more importantly, in helping the Iraqi people to achieve that goal.

With regard to the Western Sahara, we look to the parties to find a political solution through negotiations. We support Secretary Jim Bakerís efforts to assist the parties in finding a solution and, of course, the United States would not be interested in imposing a solution on the parties. The parties have to find the right answer through negotiations on the basis of the Baker Plan.

Iíd like to thank His Majesty, the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister and all others who have helped to make my visit a very, very successful one, even though short. Thank you very much.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, as you know, there has been a crackdown here following the terrorist events of May 16th. There have been reports of human rights abuses, including torture, and secret detentions. Did these issues come up in your discussions this morning and did you cite any specific cases?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, we have made known to the Moroccans specific cases as they are made known to us, and as we establish them as a case that warrants bringing them to the attention of the Moroccan authorities. We do that through our Embassy contacts, and we also do that through the regular visits that Ambassador Burns, Assistant Secretary Burns, has made here. We, of course, made it clear through my discussions with my interlocutors this morning that as one moves forward toward political reform, one has to remain committed to the concept of openness and freedom of expression. And as one cracks down on terrorism, it has to be with a full understanding of the basic principles of human rights.

QUESTION: Mr. Powell, what is in store now for the Middle East conflicts after the Geneva declaration and do you think that the Roadmap is dead?

SECRETARY POWELL: The Roadmap is definitely not dead. The Roadmap is there. Itís a living document and I hope that weíll be able to move down the path laid out by the Roadmap in the near future. What we need is a commitment on the part of the Palestinian leadership -- the new Prime Minister Abu Ala -- to fight terrorism, to go after terrorist activities, to make the best effort to end terrorist activity with more than just speaking about it -- take action. When that happens, then I think conditions will once again exist to move down the path laid down by the Roadmap. Both sides have obligations. Both sides stood up with President Bush at Aqaba and committed themselves to the Roadmap and to meeting their obligations. Other Arab leaders were there to witness that. Quartet supports the road map. There are other ideas that have been presented, as you mentioned, and some ideas were presented in Geneva earlier this week. I welcome ideas, from whatever source and it seems to me the more people who talk about the prospect for peace, the better off we are. But our commitment remains firm on the road map. It is the only real plan that is out there that has been adopted by the parties, that has been signed up to by the parties. The Geneva document was interesting, but it does not reflect agreement by the parties. But it nevertheless presents ideas that I think deserve to be listened to. Anybody who is interested in moving forward down the path of peace I think is worth being listened to.

(crosstalk)

QUESTION: Two small questions if you donít mind. I mean you spoke about fighting terrorism. I mean the United States and Morocco, and Iím just asking, donít you see that it is time actually to think about considering the Polisario as a terrorist organization, I mean since their deeds are like those of (inaudible) even worse, that people who have been (inaudible) for so many years? And my second question isÖ.

SECRETARY POWELL: In the Western Sahara there is a now plan that has been put forward to try to bring an end to this difficult situation that has caused so much difficulty over the years and has caused so much loss of life. And I think our focus right now should be on responses to the Baker Plan, which the sides are developing and negotiations between Morocco and Algeria on a way forward. And thatís what we are focusing on and thatís what we are trying to help both sides do.

QUESTION: Nicholas Kralev of the Washington Times. Mr. Secretary, there have been reports in the last 16 hours or so that six-party talks with North Korea will not take place this month as many had hoped. Is this your impression and is there a deadlock in the negotiations? Should we expect any talks any time soon at all?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, thereís no deadlock. I donít recall anyone announcing when talks would take place, so itís hard to say theyíve been postponed when they havenít been -- whatever it means when you donít have a postponement, but you donít have them scheduled in the first place. But Iím still optimistic that they will take place in the near future. Weíre in close contact with all of the parties. We are working on various proposals and in due course, when the schedule firms up and we have a better idea of the outline of the talks, weíll make an announcement. But since nothing was ever scheduled, itís premature to say something has been postponed. But, I think the talks will happen in the not-too-distant future.

The important thing is that both sides, all six parties, remain committed to the talks. Thatís the key issue. That hasnít become deadlocked. Nobody is moving away from that. Everybody believes that the six party talks are going to take place and they are committed to that proposition and I expect them to take place in the not-too-distant future.

MR. BOUCHER: Weíll do the last question over here.

QUESTION: Mr. Powell, so you see is there any competition between the United States of America and French in the Maghreb, especially in economic partnership and politics, especially with the problem of the Sahara?

SECRETARY POWELL: Do I see any competition between the United States and France with respect to our interest in the Maghreb? No, none whatsoever. I know that President Chirac is visiting in the region -- I think heís in Tunisia today, and I know there will be a 5+5 meeting later this week and thereís simply no basis for anyone to think there is a competition. I am here because Iíve wanted to come here for some time and also visit in Tunisia and Algeria and my schedule permitted me to do it at this time. But, there is no competition. We, I think, have a common view with our French friends about the needs of the region and what we need to do to help the nations in the region move forward into the 21st century.

QUESTION: Sir, can you tell us whether the Free Trade Agreement between Morocco and the United States will affect Morocco (inaudible) in the treatment of AIDS (inaudible).

SECRETARY POWELL: Regrettably, I canít. I canít tell you what the linkage is and how that might be affected. Thatís a question thatís probably better directed to our trade representatives and those who are negotiating the agreement or with Moroccan trade representatives.

SECRETARY POWELL: Merci beaucoup, au revoir. Thank you very much.

2003/1225


Released on December 3, 2003

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