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Cablegate: Prime Minister Emphasizes Western Sahara

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHRB #0854/01 2921802
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 191802Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY RABAT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0754
INFO RUEHCL/AMCONSUL CASABLANCA PRIORITY 4737
RUCNMGH/MAGHREB COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS RABAT 000854

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PHUM EAID WI MO
SUBJECT: PRIME MINISTER EMPHASIZES WESTERN SAHARA

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Prime Minister Abbas El Fassi
welcomed the Ambassador to Morocco during a one-hour
call on October 12. El Fassi emphasized our
excellent relations as well as Morocco's ties to
Africa and the Arab World. El Fassi appealed for
U.S. support for Morocco's autonomy plan for Western
Sahara. The Ambassador highlighted his desire to
build on the President's Cairo speech, the Nobel
Peace Prize, the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and the
Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) Compact. END
SUMMARY.

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RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
------------------------

2. (SBU) The Ambassador began his courtesy calls
with a one-hour call on the Prime Minister on
October 12. The DCM was also present. El Fassi
emphasized our privileged relations, as exemplified
by the FTA and the MCA Compact. He underscored
Morocco's choice to be allied with the United States
both in the 1700s and after regaining its
independence in 1956. The Prime Minister noted that
the 1958 Constitution guaranteed political
pluralism. El Fassi also pointed to Morocco's
political and human rights advances over the last 10
years. Highlighting the status of women, he pointed
to King Mohammed VI's decision to reserve places for
women in the 2002 and 2007 parliamentary elections
and the 2009 municipal elections. He noted that the
King and the Government were now focused on judicial
reform. In fact, he said that earlier in the
afternoon, he had chaired a meeting to review
ministers' prerogatives, with a view toward
eliminating most discretionary authorities.

-------------------------------
UNIQUE IN AFRICA AND ARAB WORLD
-------------------------------

3. (SBU) The Prime Minister then turned to
Morocco's uniqueness in Africa and the Arab World.
Going back and forth between Morocco's establishment
as a state in the 700s and its changing borders, El
Fassi noted that Morocco has existed with similar
borders since the first Arab dynasty established
itself over 12 centuries ago. Following occupation
and resistance, Morocco negotiated with France and
Spain to reclaim its territory, with the French
withdrawing in 1956; the Spanish ceding the north in
1957; Spain subsequently ceding Sidi Ifni; and Spain
ultimately returning the Western Sahara in 1975. He
pointed out that the world changed significantly,
however, between 1956 and 1975. Algeria, which had
not existed until 1962, used those 20 years to build
links with 20 or more like-minded one-party states
and military dictatorships in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Algeria persuaded those countries that the Polisario
deserved their support and recognition.

4. (SBU) El Fassi emphasized that since Morocco
withdrew from the Organization of African Unity
(OAU) over the OAU's admission of the Sahrawi Arab
Democratic Republic, it has courted African
countries. More than 8,000 Sub-Saharan African
students are currently studying everything from
agronomy to medicine in Morocco on full
scholarships.

5. (SBU) Morocco, according to El Fassi, has also
created a unique role for itself in the Arab World.
It is a moderate in the Arab League. It refuses to
deal with HAMAS. It represents a bulwark against
extremism.

---------------------------
AUTONOMY FOR WESTERN SAHARA
---------------------------

6. (SBU) The Prime Minister then turned to Western
Sahara, explaining that Morocco had developed the
2007 autonomy plan for Western Sahara to offer an
honorable compromise to settle the dispute. The
plan includes Sahrawi control over most executive,
legislative and judicial functions. Moreover, it is
a serious and credible proposal. El Fassi stressed
that the Polisario and Algeria lacked credibility;
one had only to look at the 3,000 people who have
fled Tindouf since 1975, with none leaving Western
Sahara for the camps. The Prime Minister concluded

his remarks by appealing for U.S. support for the
autonomy plan.

------------------------
BUILDING ON CAIRO SPEECH
------------------------

7. (SBU) The Ambassador used the remaining 15
minutes to stress his pride in being the President's
personal representative. He said he looked forward
to building on the FTA, the MCA and the President's
Cairo speech, which had certainly contributed to the
Nobel Committee's decision to award President Obama
the Nobel Peace prize. As the meeting ended, the
Prime Minister and the Ambassador compared notes on
their experiences as lawyers and diplomats.

8. (SBU) COMMENT: While Foreign Minister Taieb
Fassi Fihri chose to save the Western Sahara
discussion for a subsequent meeting, Prime Minister
El Fassi made it a central issue for the
Ambassador's first meeting with him. In fact, he
subtly built his whole presentation about a changing
world to lay the groundwork to appeal for U.S.
support for the autonomy plan. END COMMENT.


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