Nabil Ouchagour
Last updated: 22 November, 2013

Why the meeting between Obama and King Mohammed is strategic for the region

The visit of King Mohammed VI offers not only a precious door into the Arab world, but also new hope for relations between the triangle of the European Union, the United States and MENA, writes Nabil Ouchagour.

President Obama is to introduce to the world a second mandate for a new United States foreign policy. Following a first mandate, under the banner of non-interventionism, Obama mandated John Kerry to lead a more ambitious policy, particularly in regard to issues surrounding the MENA region.

The “dreamer”, as Kerry has been indulgently nick-named by the Washington Post, is burrowing towards a resolution on Iranian nuclear regulation and the democratic liberalization of Egypt. Kerry even dreams of a world in which “Israel and Palestine are co-signers of an accord based on the foundation of a Palestinian state.”

Obama’s legacy in the MENA region is also subject to the selection of new allies. The highly-anticipated meeting between King Mohammad VI and the American president on Friday will be held in this context.

Numerous Washington-based think tanks confirm the choice of the Moroccan monarch. The influential “The Atlantic Council” recently published a report in which it demonstrated the vital role Morocco has played in the security and development of Africa. The report, authored by Peter Pham, the Africa Center’s director, highlights the visit of the Moroccan sovereign to the United States as an opportunity to reinforce links between the two nations in the face of difficult challenges. Among these challenges, violent extremism, shaky democratic transitions and the promotion of economic development in the MENA region are cited.

Only days away from this strategic meeting, nine previous American ambassadors to Morocco addressed a letter to President Obama underlining the significant economic opportunities that would be lost if the United States were to ignore Morocco in its struggle for peace and development. American diplomats and experts are making their voices heard, and ask their president to support the autonomous plan proposed by Morocco to resolve conflict in the Western Sahara. The letter ends with a quote from George Washington: “We flatter ourselves that one day, we will be useful to our friends.”

Elsewhere, the MEP Gilles Pargneaux signed a statement declaring “The Moroccan Kingdom is the first and only Arab country to have developed an advanced statute with Europe, a statute that has evolved into the proposed constitution of a free-trade zone, currently deep in negotiations. The Kingdom of Morocco, through the personal volition of Mohammed VI, its constitutional revision and the results of 2011’s free elections, is a window onto a particularly unstable Arab world.”

From his vantage point, Obama must recognise that he cannot address challenges in the MENA region without his historic partner, the European Union, by his side. The visit of King Mohammed VI thus offers not only a precious door into the Arab world, but also new hope for relations between the triangle of the European Union, the United States and MENA.

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