Unless some in-depth preparations have taken place already of which we are unaware, we are highly skeptical that U/S Burns and/or Secretary Clinton will be prepared on this visit to do more than agree a statement that formally establishes a Commission and states its purpose in general terms. It would be a plus, but might be very difficult without prior in-depth preparations, to have included in such a statement any description of its modalities (working groups are our recommendation) and periodicity (quarterly at the working level and annually at senior level — our counsel). We think it should be possible to define the categories in broad terms in a statement at this point such as “US/Moroccan bilateral relations, and security, social, economic and political development issues in the North and West Africa and the Middle East regions.” This is broad enough to allow discussion of what you want to include in specific categories.
Our advice is to concentrate first and foremost on agreeing to the language of the statement establishing the Commission and then concentrate on agreeing to what the content should be in terms of general issues to be covered, basic modalities of how it would function, and the meeting schedules. This would be a tremendous achievement in itself if all of this can be accomplished on this visit. In our view, trying to accomplish too much at such a senior level in one meeting without in-depth prior preparation risks putting the enterprise in jeopardy. It bears recalling that there is now little interest in this proposal below the Secretary and U/S Burns. Thepriority is to get something concrete established that will present the bureaucracy with something of a fait accompli so that they will then have to produce results for submission to more senior levels. You could also announce the appointment of a dual secretariat to oversee the commission on a daily working basis, If you can reach such agreement by the time of the meeting. In other words, each country would appoint a principal person to oversee the work of the committees of the commission. These two individuals would become the overall coordinators for the effort and could be announced at the time of the Burns meeting.
In any case, we suggest that you propose a senior level group to meet in the immediate future (we would suggest in Rabat) to conclude details on a formal statement of purpose and scope for the Commission once the language and statement to establish the Commission has been agreed and announced in Washington at a senior level on this visit
For such a statement establishing the commission, and if discussions proceed to that depth during your visit, we suggest that the “charter” for the commission begin with a preamble that recalls the strong and historic character of US/Moroccan relations and emphasize our common commitment to a set of shared political and social values based on democratic process, respect for human rights, minority and gender equality, justice before the law, and respect for international agreements in the resolution of regional disputes.
In terms of establishing categories for working groups, we think that the more simply it is presented, the better the chance of its being accepted. We would suggest that you propose only two broad categories at the outset. One working group would work on bilateral issues between the US and Morocco. This group could cover the full range of issues from human rights to economic assistance. It clearly would be managed within State at the Office Director level through periodic interagency meetings to work on issues that are commonly agreed as requiring priority attention.
The second group should focus on regional security, political, and social development issues. This is where US/Moroccan cooperation on political development in the MENA and West Africa region would be coordinated. It is also where Sahara would be discussed. At State, this second group would also likely fall to the Office Director to manage. The inclination will be to keep the workload down and not get overly ambitious lest the process fall victim to overwork. This is why we suggest keeping it to two groups and tightly defining priorities in each group. But we believe the Sahara should be a visible and important part of any committee structure, whether as a stand-alone committee or as part of a larger “regional” committee.
Separate committees under each broad category can be defined at a later time, or evolve from the first meeting and prior to a working group meeting in Rabat. In any case, the WS will need its own concentrated effort at the Fassi Fihri – Burns/Feltman level, and should be agreed upon as an issue that will be regularly discussed with specific action agenda items attached to the effort. We see this as the only way to keep the Sahara dialogue on a progressive track and potentially become an ingrained issue to be dealt with by this Administration and potentially future Administrations.
Tags : Sahara Occidental, Front Polisario, Maroc, Morocco,