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TRANSCRIPT: COHEN'S PRESS CONFERENCE IN MARRAKECH FEBRUARY 11
(U.S., Morocco agree to expanded security and defense dialogue)
February 14, 2000
Marrakech (Morocco)-- The United States and Morocco have agreed to open an
expanded security and defense dialogue, Secretary of Defense William Cohen said
February 11 following talks with King Mohammed VI at the Royal Palace.
This new dialogue "will enable both countries to explore ways to enhance their
mutual cooperation that in many ways already exists," the Secretary said at a
press conference as he completed his visit to Morocco.
Cohen said he had a very good meeting with King Mohammed VI on a wide range of
issues. He noted that King Mohammed "is committed to improving the welfare of
all Moroccans, strengthening government institutions and expanding human rights.
And he also wants Morocco to remain a leading force for peace and stability."
Both countries will look for ways to broaden efforts to work together for
regional stability, he said. "Morocco is already an important supporter of the
Middle East Peace Process."
In response to a question about Middle East peace, Cohen said "the current prime
minister of Israel is dedicated to resolving the impasse that has existed for
some time between Israel and Syria; Israel and the Palestinians. And I believe
that most of the Gulf states also support Prime Minister Barak's effort to
achieve a lasting and durable peace in the Middle East."
Cohen's trip also included visits to South Africa and Nigeria.
Following is the transcript of the press conference, provided by USIS Morocco:
Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen
February 11, 2000
Secretary Cohen: First let me express my apologies for being so late. The King
had a wonderful opportunity for us -- my wife Janet and I -- to meet with him
and then to have a business meeting following and it extended for some period of
time, so I apologize for our lateness.
Let me say how pleased we are to be back in Morocco and particularly to be here
in beautiful Marrakech. Janet and I visited Morocco back in September 1998. It
is a pleasure for both of us to be here again, continuing to build on a very
strong historical relationship between Morocco and the United States. As many
of you know, our countries signed the Moroccan-American Treaty of Peace and
Friendship back in 1787. We have been partners in both war and peace ever
This morning we had a very good meeting with King Mohammed VI, with whom we met
in 1998 when he was then Crown Prince. He is a young, dynamic leader who is
building on his father's policies. King Mohammed is committed to improving the
welfare of all Moroccans, strengthening government institutions, and expanding
human rights. And he also wants Morocco to remain a leading force for peace and
To this end, we agreed to open and expanded security and defense dialogue
between our countries that will enable us to expand our cooperation. Today, our
troops are serving together as peacekeepers in Bosnia and Kosovo. In the past,
we have also worked together in Operation Desert Storm to liberate Kuwait and
also in Somalia.
A new security dialogue is going to enable us to discuss ways to improve the
quality of our training exercises together. It will also enable us to consider
multilateral exercises with other countries that are involved in NATO's
Mediterranean initiative. We also intend to look for ways to broaden our
efforts to work together for regional stability. Morocco is already an
important supporter of the Middle East Peace Process.
And we will also examine ways that our militaries can work together to promote
reform and modernization. And as this security dialogue evolves, it will be
another sign of the strong relations between our countries and of our
determination to work together for peace and stability.
And, finally, we will work very hard to get a larger room so it won't be quite
so warm next time.
I will be happy to entertain your questions.
Q: "Mohammed Shawi from the newspaper "L'Opinion." I have two questions to ask
the honorable Secretary of Defense. Sir, at first sight, you are a playwright,
you're a poet, you're a writer and at first sight it doesn't seem to be
compatible with the position you hold at this time.
A: That is a question?
Q: Second question. You led the delegation that took part in the talks of the
Arab-American dialogue process in Cairo. Now that this initiative is in a
deadlock, what are your impressions in that sense?
A: I'll deal with that question first. I believe that the current Prime
Minster of Israel is dedicated to resolving the impasse that has existed for
some time between Israel and Syria, Israel and the Palestinians. I believe that
most of the Gulf States support Prime Minister Barak's effort to achieve a
lasting and durable peace in the Middle East. As we know, it is not going to be
an easy goal to achieve because there are those elements in the Middle East who
are dedicated to destroying any effort to bring about a peaceful resolution to
the situation there.
President Clinton and his entire administration is dedicated to working with
Israel, to working with the Palestinians, and working with Syria to help bring
about a comprehensive Middle East Peace. And we will all dedicate our efforts to
As far as my passion for writing, I have had the benefit of a classics
education. What was called a liberal arts education which allowed me to have a
sense of history and to study the classics, so that I might gain as much wisdom
from studying the past that I might be a better person to deal with the future.
That is what I have tried to do. To use words to help persuade one in an
argument or on an issue is not inconsistent with being Secretary of Defense. It
is a great asset to have.
Q: Jamie McIntyre from CNN. During your talks with the King, did you discuss
any increase in US military aid or any US arms sales to Morocco?
A: Our discussions were quite wide-ranging. The King indicated that he
certainly is dedicated to improving the lives and the lot of all of his citizens
throughout Morocco and being a force for stability throughout the region. We
talked about trade, investment, economic types of programs that would help
benefit all the Moroccan people. We did not focus specifically upon any
military issues per se regarding arms sales. We did discuss the King's
agreement and willingness to send a high-level delegation to meet with
corresponding military and civilian officials to see how we could broaden our
security relationship with Morocco.
Q: Moncef Slimi from the newspaper "Al-Sharq Al-Awsat." At the outset of your
press conference, you've indicated that there is new momentum in the Moroccan-US
relationship, I would like to know if this momentum is political, tactical or
strategic in nature?
A: We do have a new momentum. You have a new King. You certainly have a young
dynamic leader. We have entered into a new century with new economic challenges,
new security threats, and we reaffirmed our strong security bonds that we have
and have had for years and dedicated ourselves to enhancing it in the future.
With respect to evidence of this, this is my second visit to Morocco. I know, I
not only hope, but I know that it will not be my last. We intend to return as
often as we can because of our affection for the people and our interest in the
country. You might take note there has been a significant increase in the
number of congressional delegations who have been coming to Morocco in recent
years. This is a sign, I think, of more to come.
Q: Abdelfattah Fakihani from AFP. Honorable Secretary of Defense, did you, sir,
talk with his majesty, King Mohammed VI about the Western Sahara issue as well
as the issue of the Morocco-Algerian relationship. Not withstanding all of what
I said, what is actually your opinion, sir, on the referendum that is about to
take place and the announcement that it has been postponed until 2002? I would
like you to share with us your general and overall impression of the matter.
A: What I have indicated is that the United States supports the United Nations
effort to find a peaceful resolution. With respect to Algeria, I indicated to
the King that the United States would like to expand or enhance its contacts
with Algeria for the purpose of promoting regional peace and stability. We will
not do so at the expense of Morocco -- this is no zero-sum game the U.S. is
engaged in. We believe that having more contact with Algeria and promoting a
peaceful, more stable relationship in the regional will be beneficial to all the
countries in the region, including Morocco.
Q: Jim Mannion from AFP. Mr. Secretary, you mentioned you would like to help
Morocco reform and restructure its military. In what way, how would it be
restructured in the future? What does it have to do and how can the United
A: Morocco, of course, will have to decide for itself what is in its best
security interests. We have found it beneficial in the United States to reform
our military in the sense of promoting much greater jointness of exercising
together among the services. We believe that it augments and enhances military
effectiveness when different services are able to exercise together, train
together, study joint doctrine together to produce a much more efficient and
That may or may not be beneficial for the Moroccan military purposes. What I
should say is that we intend to certainly increase our joint exercises with the
Moroccan military in the coming year and years.
Q: Aziz Tubairda from Morocco TV. Morocco has always been a region of
cohabitation between different religions and civilizations throughout history.
What is the role Morocco is expected to play to promote peace and security,
especially in the Mediterranean region?
A: I think that differences will always continue to exist in terms of religion
and cultural-historical backgrounds. I think the responsibility of all national
leaders is to find those areas where there can be commonality of ideals and
interests while respecting the differences in one's heritage and religion. If I
could borrow a phrase from the former Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, Anwar
Ibrahim, who promoted the notion "not a clash of civilization, but a celebration
of civilizations" -- that should be the goal of all national leaders.
Thank you very much.
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: usinfo.state.gov)
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