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

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As tumult in Middle East distracts Obama administration, efforts to shift American focus eastward appear threatened More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid