Published — Saturday 5 April 2014
Last update 15 May 2014 4:01 am
RABAT: Secretary of State John Kerry Friday pledged US support for Moroccan reforms and efforts to promote regional stability, while highlighting social challenges faced by Rabat.
“Morocco is playing an important leadership role, and the United States will stand by this relationship every step of the way,” he said at the end of a North African tour.
“The 18 different agreements that Morocco signed with Mali show that Morocco is driving greater security and greater prosperity in the region,” Kerry added, speaking in Rabat alongside his Moroccan counterpart, Salaheddine Mezouar.
Those accords, signed in February during a tour of West Africa by King Mohammed VI, included an agreement to train hundreds of imams in Morocco.
Rabat is considered an important US ally in combating radical ideology, which has enjoyed a revival elsewhere in North Africa since the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings that swept away decades-old dictatorships.
Morocco’s agreement to train imams from nearby countries afflicted by violence, such as Mali, Tunisia and Libya, forms part of its strategy of promoting a more tolerant version of Islam.
Kerry met Moroccan Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane after flying to Rabat from Algiers on Thursday evening.
He welcomed the king’s commitment to abolish the military trial of civilians, a practice the Moroccan government finally agreed to do in a bill approved last month.
Kerry said the United States was “deeply committed” to supporting the “major reforms” already undertaken by the king.
But he warned of the “enormous” social challenges facing Morocco and other countries across the region. He cited the 2011 uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt as examples of the dangers facing governments that fail to provide opportunities for their burgeoning youth population.
“Sixty percent of the country is under 30 years old,” Kerry said.
“The challenge of any government under those circumstances is to be able to provide jobs and opportunities for its young people. And that challenge is enormous.”