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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs