By Munir K. Nasser
King Mohammed VI of Morocco called on all concerned parties in the Middle East peace process to “honor their commitments in every respect.”
The 36-year king, on his first state visit to the United States, announced that peace does not become reality unless “Israel withdraws from the Golan and all other occupied Arab territories, and the independent state of Palestine, with Al Quds Al Sharif [Jerusalem] as its capital.”
The Moroccan monarch told Clinton that in its latest resolutions, the Al Quds Committee, which he chairs, “issued a warning about the grave situation in this city, three times holy; a city that should become, as in the past, a place where religions, civilizations and cultures meet and co-exist without undergoing any alteration to demographic make-up or places of worship,” he stressed.
The king assured President Clinton that he was determined to pursue the work initiated by his late father, and to join efforts to reactivate the peace process set in motion in Madrid in 1991, “to promote dialogue and to defend legality so that all the peoples in the region may finally live together in dignity, stability and concord,” he said.
At an hour-long meeting at the Oval Office, Clinton and the king discussed the US role in helping African countries, and the issues of economic reform they are facing. According to White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart, the two leaders had a serious discussion of Western Sahara, and also the k
ing spent some time discussing with the President his vision of Morocco in the future, as far as expanding human rights and democracy.
On the Western Sahara territorial dispute, Lockhart said the United States supports "the effort that the United Nations has undertaken for some time now to find a solution to this, and we'll continue to work through the UN.”
Lockhart added the two leaders also had had a discussion of bilateral economic issues, on economic reform in Morocco, a short discussion on the Middle East peace process, and then they finished with a short discussion on American-Moroccan bilateral military relationship.
At a lunch at the State Department, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright praised the king for "honoring the legacy of his father by continuing to play a positive role" in support of the Middle East peace process.
Albright described the king as “young and dynamic, like his people. He has shown a deep commitment to fighting poverty, improving education, advancing women's rights and lifting standards of health care. Albright added that the king has also worked closely with the opposition government appointed by his father, “thereby setting an important example of progress towards democracy and respect for human rights in the Arab world.”
Albright warned that “much more remains to be done, but he has taken important steps to improve economic conditions by privatizing industry and examining possibilities for agricultural reform.
In response, the king alluded to the need to improve American-Moroccan economic relations. He oted that “Though excellent at the political level, these relations are below their potential at the economic level, particularly where trade and investments are concerned. Therefore, I call upon Moroccan and American operators to be more enterprising in exploring existing potentialities and taking advantage of opportunities the Kingdom of Morocco has to offer,” he said.
On the Western Sahara issue, the king said that Morocco has “endeavored to provide conditions which would help overcome any obstacle standing in the way of the implementation of the United Nations settlement plan in its southern provinces, as well as the total and equitable enforcement of the Houston agreement without any discrimination against the legal claimants and in full concordance with international legality,” he said.
In this respect, the king noted that Morocco supports the action undertaken by the United Nations Secretary General and by his Special Envoy, James Baker, “for this action seeks to explore ways and means liable to lead us to a just and lasting solution to this issue which unduly hampers the revival of the Arab-Maghreb union,” he stressed.
On the Middle East peace process, the king emphasized it is important to have a complete and fair implementation by all parties concerned of the commitments they have made, within the framework of the principle of land for peace, “with the ultimate objective of proclaiming a fully sovereign Palestinian state with Al Quds Al Sharif as its capital,” he said.
Earlier in the day, King Mohammed VI and his sister, Princess Lalla Meryem, were welcomed at an official arrival ceremony on the White House South Lawn, replete with the playing of the national anthems of each country, reviewing of the troops by the two leaders, and a 21-gun salute.
With the First Lady on the campaign trail in New York, Chelsea Clinton, 20, home from college, took her mother's place at the formal welcoming ceremony.
In the evening, President and Mrs. Clinton honored the king and Princess Lalla Meryem with a State Dinner at the White House. Following the dinner, guests were entertained in the South Lawn
Pavilion by Rock & Roll Hall of Famers and Grammy Award winners, Earth, Wind & Fire.
According to a White House statement, the official gift for Morocco's king from President Clinton on the occasion of his state visit is a Tiffany & Co. handcrafted sterling silver cachepot with an engraved inscription to King Mohammed VI. The king's gift to the President is a dagger decorated with gold and encrusted with diamonds and emeralds, the White House release said.
Princess Lalla Meryem's gift to the First Lady is a hand-painted ceramic pitcher with gold lip and handle. This gift was designed by King Mohammed VI, the release said – Albawaba.com
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)