By Siham Ali
Sahel-Saharan security topped the agenda of new talks between King Mohammed VI of Morocco and US President Barack Obama.
The two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to expanding civilian and military co-operation in terms of non-proliferation and counter-terrorism, according to a joint statement issued at the end of their Washington meeting last Friday.
“To address their concern for the continuing threat posed by terrorism, the United States and Morocco intend to continue co-operation to bolster democratic criminal justice institutions and to counter the threat of violent extremism in the region,” the November 22nd statement read.
The US President urged Morocco to join the United States in setting up the International Institute of Justice and the Rule of Law in Malta, which is intended to train a new generation of criminal justice officials from across Africa.
The Malta programme will focus on addressing counter-terrorism security challenges through the rule of law.
The two leaders vowed to continue participation in the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum and to strengthen political, economic and security ties through a reinvigorated Arab Maghreb Union.
Morocco and the United States also agreed to work together on ways to improve mutual understanding and interfaith dialogue between young people of the two countries.
Discussions between the leaders included ways to foster a closer economic partnership. According to political analyst Jamal Farhani, the 2006 Free Trade Agreement still favours the United States.
“This matter will be discussed during the second strategic dialogue meeting between the two countries, which is scheduled to take place in Morocco in 2014,” Farhani underlined.
Above all, the monarch’s visit provided an opportunity to reiterate the unity of vision between the two countries in terms of security, he said.
“Security is a highly important issue, as the region is plagued by instability due to the proliferation of Libyan arms and the difficulty of tracking down all terrorist groups because of the enormity of the Sahel-Sahara,” the analyst told Magharebia.
“Morocco is a stable partner for the United States and is capable of playing a leading role in combating extremism and terrorism, especially since the situation in Libya and Tunisia remains critical,” he added.
For his part, US Congressman James Moran said: “Morocco is actually one of our best friends in a region that still faces many difficulties.”
To put the pledges into effect, a mutual assistance agreement was signed during the Moroccan monarch’s visit to Washington. It is a legal and partnership framework for intelligence-sharing and co-operation between the customs authorities of the two nations.
The new accord will enable Morocco and the United States to co-operate over a wide range of issues related to revenue collection, cross-border crime prevention and protection against threats to security, with both countries making counter-terrorism a shared priority.
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