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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release June 20, 2000
                        REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT

                            The White House

9:24 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Ladies and gentlemen, Your Majesty, members of the Moroccan delegation, welcome, all of you to the White House this evening. No foreign guest is more deserving of a warm welcome here than King Mohammed. (Applause.)

Your Majesty, as I said this morning, it is well known that when the 13 separate states of America declared themselves the United States, your ancestor, Sultan Sidi (phonetic) Mohammed, was the very first sovereign to recognize our new nation. (Applause.)

The greatest heroes of our early history were the strongest proponents of friendship with Morocco. The Treaty of Friendship between our nations was urged on Congress by Benjamin Franklin, drafted by Thomas Jefferson, signed by John Adams and affirmed by George Washington in a letter to the Sultan. Our Treaty of Friendship is the oldest American treaty of its kind still enforced today. (Applause.)

In the two centuries since it was first signed, we have seen much to admire and be grateful for in our friendship. As the Arab nation which lies closest to the West, you have been a bridge across cultures. You have a proud tradition of independence, known the world over for your generosity and hospitality. The oldest property owned by America on foreign soil is one of the most beautiful buildings in Tangier, a gift to our country from yours.

Your Majesty, Hillary and Chelsea have visited your country three times now. They have been charmed again and again by the special character of Morocco, the warmth and hospitality of your people, the beauty of the mountains and the Madinahs and, especially, your generosity of spirit.

For centuries, your land has been a model of religious tolerance. When she was there, Hillary asked people throughout your country, where did you learn this tolerance? And over and over again they said, we learned it from our parents. In Morocco, Your Majesty, that appears to be especially true of kings.

During World War II, your wise and courageous grandfather blocked efforts of the Vichy government to identify and label Moroccan Jews. Decades later, your father bravely opened a dialogue with Israel, paved the way for the Camp David Accords, and proved it is possible to be commander of the faithful and a bridge between faiths. (Applause.)

I was honored and humbled to represent the United States in Rabat last year to show our respect and affection for your father. I will never forget setting forth on foot from the Royal Palace to the Mausoleum and seeing hundreds of thousands, indeed millions, of mourners on rooftops and treetops and along the side streets, surging toward the cortege, expressing their deep devotion to him.

I am pleased to tell you tonight that we are establishing, in honor of your father, the King Hassan II Memorial Scholarship Program to enable students from Morocco to study here in America, and to study subjects close to the King's heart: international affairs and conflict resolution. (Applause.)

The people of Morocco also have immense devotion to you, Your Majesty. You have emphasized the need to improve schools for children and create jobs for their parents. You have moved to heal old wounds, promote political freedoms, protect human rights, and reach out to your people.

You have shown the courage and vision to elevate Morocco as a model of openness, prosperity and inclusion. This is vital not only for Morocco, but also for people far beyond your borders. Friends of peace and tolerance are needed now, perhaps more than ever, as we approach the moment of truth in the Middle East peace process.

Your Majesty, America is eager to continue and to deepen our two-century-old friendship. We are eager to work with you toward a world of greater hope and understanding across cultures and continents. In that spirit, we welcome you again to the land shown such favor by your forefathers.

Welcome to America. Thank you for your friendship, and may it last forever. (Applause.)

KING MOHAMMED: Mr. President, Madam First Lady, Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen. I deeply appreciate the warmth of your welcome on the occasion of my first state visit to your great country, as well as the marks of attention lavished on me and my delegation. I am also most touched, Mr. President, by the kind words you have said regarding my person and which honor my country.

On an occasion as special as tonight's, I want to underline the fact that your binding, perennial ties do not remain confined to a nostalgic past; that our bilateral relations are in constant evolution; and that from now on we need to aspire to greater heights so as to move our cooperation towards a quality, strategic partnership focusing on full global and inter-dependent objective to ensure security, to strengthen democracy, to generate prosperity, to edify peace.

Being proud of a cultural identity forged in the course of more than one millennium and enjoying exceptional political stability and the longstanding tradition of moderation and openness, the Kingdom of Morocco offers exemplary evidence that it can be at the same time a state of love; a multi-party democracy, open to government alternation; a competitive, liberal economy fostering the private sectors, enterprising spirit and direct foreign investments; and also a land of tolerance where all citizens coexist in dignity and in racial and religious harmony.

Mr. President, during the reign of my late father, His Majesty King Hassan II, the Kingdom of Morocco, ever respectful of international legality and ever anxious to assume its political duties, made its contribution at all times and within its means and power of influence towards peace and security at various theaters of action and in different parts of the world.

With regard to this, the Middle East region holds an extremely sensitive strategic position where security issues are the first priority, particularly as the situation is exacerbated by religious fanaticism and extremist acts of violence brought about by the retrocession of Occupied Territories, the return of refugees, and the protection of the holy places. To all of these threats to security, we have to add those pertaining to water supplies and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Mr. President, I would be the first to acknowledge the degree of your personal commitment to bringing peace to this troubled region. In fact, the peace process could not have been initiated and would not have survived without the patient and determined efforts of the United States of America and especially under your leadership. (Applause.)

Though there is today every reason for us to rejoice at the recent Israeli withdrawal from South Lebanon, the Kingdom of Morocco expresses the most fervent desire to see negotiations resume with Syria for the retrocession of the occupied Golan, as well as fair implementation of commitments made regarding the national and territorial rights for the Palestinian people which make up the Gordion Knot of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

In this respect, Israel, having no reason to fear for its national security should, with warranty from its partners, accept the idea that the peoples of the region may exist and live together in peace and dignity on the land of their common ancestors.

In my capacity as Chairman of the Al Qods Committee, a task I am assuming on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, I will insist particularly on the status of the city, holy for the three monotheistic religions, so that all believers can pray together full of hope to one God. My heart is set on this ideal of love and this culture of comfort in this region so dear to us all where, together, we should continue without respite our work as founders and builders of peace.

Mr. President, because of our solidarity with Africa, this cradle of mankind, whose future will undoubtedly belie the present sufferings, we follow with great interest the ongoing American initiatives aimed at the recovery and development of this stricken continent.

Likewise, we strongly wish for the revival of the Arab-Maghreb Union, viewed by us as an irreversible strategic option, liable to ensure regional security and prosperity while preserving the integrity of the territories.

Mr. President, for all of these issues, I am willing to add my energy and capacity to yours with a view to achieving the noble objectives of liberty, justice, peace and prosperity for all nations.

Ladies and gentlemen, I ask you to rise to pay homage to the President of the United States of America and Mrs. Hillary Clinton, to wish the American government every success in the defense of international justice and legality and the American nation every happiness and prosperity. (Speaking Moroccan.) (Applause.)

(Toasts were exchanged.) (Applause.)

END 9:35 P.M. EDT