Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met with Moroccan Foreign Minister Taieb Fassi Fihri at the Department of State in Washington on March 23. Following their meeting, Secretary Clinton said:
"Good afternoon, everyone. I am delighted to welcome a friend and a colleague. Minister Fassi Fihri and I have had a chance to work and consult together over the last several years, and his visit here today represents another occasion to salute a very special bilateral relationship between Morocco and the United States. We have a long history of friendship and partnership on almost every level, from economics to educational exchanges, from trade to development, and security.
"But before I begin with comments on this important relationship, I want to just briefly address a few other issues of global and regional importance. I visited the Embassy of Japan yesterday to pay my respects to the people of Japan, who have endured so much in recent weeks. This morning, I spoke with the Japanese foreign minister to express my condolences and my admiration for the remarkable resilience of the Japanese people. The United States has joined in the international outpouring of support for Japan at this time of need. And in the spirit of the enduring friendship, partnership, and alliance between Japan and the United States, we stand ready to help in every way that we possibly can.
"Also this morning, I was shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the bombing in Jerusalem today that took at least one life and injured innocent civilians. Terrorism and the targeting of civilians are never justified. And Israel, like all nations, of course, has to respond when this occurs. The United States is committed to Israel's security and we strongly condemn this violence and extend our deepest sympathies to all those affected.
"We also strongly condemn recent rocket attacks from Gaza against innocent Israeli civilians and hold fully responsible the militants perpetrating these attacks. And I join President Obama in extending our sincere condolences to the friends and families of the Palestinian civilians killed in Gaza yesterday and appreciate that Israel has expressed regret.
"We stress the importance of calm and we urge all concerned to do everything in their power to prevent further violence and civilian casualties among both Israelis and Palestinians. Violence only erodes hope for a lasting and meaningful peace and the final realization of two states for two peoples.
"In our meeting today, I thanked the foreign minister for Morocco's leadership at the summit in Paris last week and for Morocco's important role in the Arab League's decision to call for the protection of Libyan civilians. We also discussed the international community's ongoing efforts to enforce United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 in Libya.
"It is still early, but we have made significant progress. This week, Qadhafi's troops were poised to enter Benghazi over the weekend, putting hundreds of thousands of civilians in that city of 700,000 at great risk. Today, those troops have been pushed back and those civilians are safer as a result. Coalition efforts have downgraded Qadhafi's air defense capabilities and set the conditions for an effective no-fly zone.
"I know that the nightly news cannot cover a humanitarian crisis that thankfully did not happen, but it is important to remember that many, many Libyans are safer today because the international community took action.
"Now, of course, challenges remain so long as Qadhafi continues to direct his forces to attack his own people. So the United States will continue to support this mission as we transfer command and control to NATO.
"Moving beyond Libya, this is a crucial moment in time for Morocco, the Maghreb, and the Middle East. I saw this vividly when I visited Egypt and Tunisia last week. And it was very inspiring to meet with the young people and the activists from civil society who are expressing such a strong desire to have a democracy of their own, to have some say in the decisions affecting their lives.
"Morocco is well-positioned to lead in this area because it is on the road to achieving democratic change. His Majesty King Mohammed VI's government has consistently allowed its citizens to express themselves openly and peacefully, and it has been frank and forthcoming about the challenges ahead.
"The King has long demonstrated his commitment to reform. And earlier this month, in an important address that captured widespread attention, he promised comprehensive reforms that would guarantee free parliamentary elections, including the election of a prime minister, create an independent judiciary, and assure human rights for all of Morocco's stakeholders, including the Amazigh community.
"These ideas build on the King's earlier reforms that included increased rights for women and children, and universal access to a free education. We recognize the critical importance of the aspirations that His Majesty has described and we urge a continuing and rapid implementation of his vision.
"We also look forward with great optimism to further deepening our strong and strategic partnership in working with Morocco on so many issues. Let me close with an issue that I know is of great importance to Morocco and its neighbors, the Western Sahara. U.S. policy toward the Western Sahara has remained constant from administration to administration. We want to see a peaceful resolution. Starting with the Clinton Administration and continuing through the Bush Administration and up to the present in the Obama Administration, we have stated our belief that Morocco's autonomy plan is serious, realistic, and credible -- a potential approach to satisfy the aspirations of the people in the Western Sahara to run their own affairs in peace and dignity. The United States strongly supports the role of Ambassador Christopher Ross and the United Nations in resolving this issue.
"So again, Minister, I thank you very much for all of the work we are doing together and all of the important work that lies ahead."
You can read the full transcript of Secretary Clinton's remarks with Minister Fassi Fihri here.