News / USA

    Obama, Moroccan King Discuss Regional Security, Democratic Reforms

    President Barack Obama meets with Morocco's King Mohammed VI, Nov. 22, 2013, in the Oval Office of the White House.
    President Barack Obama meets with Morocco's King Mohammed VI, Nov. 22, 2013, in the Oval Office of the White House.
    U.S. President Barack Obama welcomed King Mohammed VI of Morocco to the White House Friday for talks on reforms in his country, and regional issues including cooperation against extremism in North Africa.  The issue of Western Sahara also was on the agenda.

    Only photographers were briefly permitted into the Oval Office, where Obama and King Mohammed smiled and shook hands for the cameras.

    A joint written statement said they discussed "the opportunity to map out a new and ambitious plan for the strategic partnership" and advancing shared priorities of a secure, stable, and prosperous Maghreb, Africa, and Middle East.

    On democratic reforms in Morocco, the statement said they discussed the "promise of Morocco's 2011 constitution and ways the United States can help strengthen Morocco's democratic institutions, civil society and inclusive governance."

    Obama, according to the statement, welcomed the king's commitment to end the practice of military trials of civilians and both reaffirmed their commitment to the U.N. human rights system.

    They also discussed the threat of violent extremism in the region, and pledged to deepen civilian and military cooperation in counterterrorism and non-proliferation.

    On Western Sahara, they affirmed their shared commitment to improving the lives of the people of the Western Sahara and agreed to work together to continue to protect and promote human rights in the territory.  

    Obama pledged to continue to support efforts to find a peaceful, sustainable, mutually agreed-upon solution to the Western Sahara question.   

    "Our position has remained consistent for many years," said press secretary Jay Carney. "The U.S. has made clear that Morocco's autonomy plan is serious, realistic and credible and that it represents a potential approach that could satisfy the aspirations of the people in the Western Sahara to run their own affairs in peace and dignity."

    Human rights organizations have urged Obama to do more to encourage respect for human rights in Morocco and Western Sahara, the former Spanish colony Morocco forcibly annexed in 1975.

    Morocco has continued to seek international recognition of its annexation of Western Sahara, where a U.N. referendum on independence called for under a 1988 cease-fire has been put off for decades.

    Eric Goldstein, the deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa division, says Morocco likes to present itself as a model for stability in a region of upheaval, but needs to replace rhetoric with action.

    "There is a lot of talk of reform in Morocco, a lot of commissions and speeches and studies," he said. "But on the ground, the human rights situation remains mixed, there are political prisoners, there are demonstrations that are violently dispersed by the police, there are harassment of activists who work for Sahrawi self-determination and other issues.  We think that Morocco could do a lot more if it is serious about reform."

    A separate White House release called Morocco one of America's closest counterterrorism partners in the Middle East and North Africa region and praised it for implementing a comprehensive counterterrorism strategy.

    The White House also praised Morocco's contributions to international peacekeeping operations in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo and Côte d’Ivoire, and the NATO KFOR mission in Kosovo.

    You May Like

    New EU Asylum Rules Could Boost Rightists

    New regulations will seek to correct EU failures in dealing with migrant crisis, most notably inability to get member states to absorb a total of 160,000 refugees

    More Political Turmoil Likely in Iraq as Iran Waits in the Wings

    Analysts warn that Tehran, even though it may not be engineering the Sadrist protests in Baghdad, is seeking to leverage its influence on its neighbor

    Forced Anal Testing Case to Appear Before Kenya Court

    Men challenge use of anal examinations to ‘prove homosexuality’; practice accomplishes nothing except to humiliate those subjected to them, according to Human Rights Watch

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora