Posts Tagged ‘Morocco’

Remembering Ambassador Joseph Verner Reed

December 2, 2016

Edward M. Gabriel (Ambassador to Morocco, 1997-2001)

Ambassador Gabriel delivered these remarks at the November 29 Memorial Service for Ambassador Joseph Verner Reed held at the United Nations in New York.


Mr. Secretary General, Honorable Ambassadors, distinguished guests, and Joseph’s family members and colleagues of the UN, it is my honor to say a few words about our friend, Joseph Verner Reed.

Joseph once wrote to his Deputy, Dick Jackson, “Morocco is the mystery, beauty, and exoticism that I myself experienced and was witness to for four unforgettable years as US Ambassador from 1981-1985″. My fellow colleagues and I, who followed Joseph as US Ambassador, would agree with his assessment.

There are now 8 former living Ambassadors who have served in Morocco, plus one current Ambassador, all following in Joseph’s footsteps. He personally touched the lives of each of us in many ways, and brought us together as good friends. And each of us has wonderful stories about Joseph.

Ambassador Tom Riley, who served as our Ambassador to Morocco under President George W. Bush, wrote me last week to say, “I am one of many with the experience of getting my first call of congratulations upon release of my nomination from Joseph. Not my family, not the White House, not any friends, but from none other than JVR.

Frecky Vreeland, US Ambassador to Morocco under President George HW Bush, said of Joseph, “he traveled widely in what he called ‘The Kingdom.’ Time and again when I was introduced to local Moroccans as the American Ambassador, they would object, saying that they do know the ambassador in question — and flash a photo taken of themselves with Joseph”.

Mike Ussery, US Ambassador to Morocco also under President HW Bush met Joseph when he was a young political appointee at the State Department. Mike said, “He always stopped by to check on me during his trips to DC, and years later he helped me prepare for Morocco and made sure I was well received there… wonderful and kind gestures that helped me in my mission in Morocco”.

For me personally, Joseph was a mentor, friend and role model. He cared dearly that each of us succeed in a country he believed was so important to the United States. He was truly a Patriot’s patriot, and put Country ahead of personal glory.

At lunch with Joseph soon after I was nominated to be Ambassador by President Clinton, he gave me a written list of ten things I must do if I was to be successful in Morocco. Knowing of Joseph’s fame in Morocco, I was grateful for the advice and followed it in the exact order he gave it to me.

One of the ten things Joseph told me to do was get out into the countryside and see every corner of Morocco and visit as many Moroccans as I possibly could. Joseph and I actually shared one body guard, who stayed on through five US Ambassadors. His name is Bouchaib.

I remember travelling to the border of the Sahara in the Western edge of Morocco, almost to Mauritania, and asked Bouchiab, did Joseph ever come this far? Bouchaib answered, Yes Sir.

I went to the most remote and highest villages in the high Atlas, Middle Atlas and Anti Atlas, and even the small villages in the mountains of the famous Rif Mountains, where in 1904, Berber Chieftain Raisuli faced the wrath of Teddy Roosevelt for kidnapping an American. Each time during these many trips, I would ask Bouchaib, did Joseph ever come to these places? And each time he would answer, Yes Sir.

Finally, we are on the outer reaches of the desert in Eastern Morocco, past the town of Figig, within eye sight of the Algerian army in a tiny little town among Sahrawi nomadic tents. I asked Bouchaib, OK, was Joseph ever here, to which he surprisingly said No Sir. As we walked into the village and met with cheering crowds of adults and children, one young boy ran up to me and handed me a pencil, with an inscription, “compliments of Ambassador Joseph Verner Reed”! This must have been one trip that even Bouchaib missed.

That’s just the kind of man Joseph was: generous and totally engaged. Every Ambassador to Morocco was asked by Joseph if they would kindly receive a package from him every quarter. We were instructed to carefully remove the outer package containing the embassy address and underneath was another wrapping addressed to the orphanage in Azroul, Morocco. The box was filled with clothes and other useful items. I do not believe Joseph missed sending a package since 1984.

David Rockefeller said Joseph was a true ‘character’ in the very best sense of the word. “He was a man of elegance, grace, wit, flamboyance and razor sharp intellect, a diplomat’s diplomat”. He said he will miss Ambassador Reed “more than words can express. We 9 colleagues of Joseph agree with you Mr. Rockefeller.

Joseph positively affected the mission and performance of each US Ambassador to Morocco who followed, and I know that each of us would say that although we were successful in our own missions, there has been no more successful US Ambassador to Morocco before or since than Joseph Verner Reed.

Thank You.



The US should do more for its oldest ally

August 6, 2014

Edward M. Gabriel (Ambassador to Morocco, 1997-2001)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Gabriel’s July 30, 2014 special to The Hill.


Today, July 30, across the Atlantic and just a few weeks after the 238th anniversary of our country’s independence, America’s oldest ally will celebrate the fifteen-year anniversary of its King’s leadership. I was present at King Mohammed VI’s enthronement ceremony in 1999, as the U.S. ambassador to Morocco at the time. I remember being struck by the seeming irony: I was representing one of the world’s most important democracies at the celebration of one of the world’s most long-standing monarchies.

But as I quickly learned, it wasn’t ironic at all. From our very first conversation, just following the death of His father, King Hassan II, I understood that King Mohammed VI holds a very specific vision for Morocco that shares so many US values. He expressed his desire to devolve power to local government; he was proud that his country embraced diversity and tolerance and wanted the world to understand how essential that was to Morocco’s identity; and he wanted his country to prosper—economically, politically, and socially. Having witnessed the first few years of his reign from the US Embassy in Rabat, and having served as an adviser to the Kingdom since 2002, I have been uniquely positioned to witness Morocco’s evolution under King Mohammed VI’s rule.


Kerry’s—and Congress’s—valued partner in Morocco

April 15, 2014

Edward M. Gabriel (Ambassador to Morocco, 1997-2001)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Gabriel’s April 14, 2014 special to The Hill.


Earlier this month, Secretary of State John Kerry concluded his whirlwind tour through Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa in Morocco, to co-chair the second US-Morocco Strategic Dialogue. With consensus with Europe on Putin’s expansionist policies only lukewarm, and the apparent derailment of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, one can imagine that Kerry was relieved to arrive in Rabat.

There, Kerry met with a partner that shares our vision of stability and security in the region, and makes common cause with the U.S. on how to move forward to achieve it. In summing up his visit at the second Morocco-U.S. Strategic Dialogue in Rabat, Kerry said, “The U.S. stands by and will stand by this relationship every step of the way.” He hailed Morocco’s “essential leadership role” on its reform program and its proactive strategy to enhance regional security and stability in Africa and the Middle East.


Morocco: A bridge between US and Africa

March 19, 2014

Edward M. Gabriel (Ambassador to Morocco, 1997-2001)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Gabriel’s March 19, 2014 special to The Hill.


At a time when many pundits are concerned about the disarray in U.S. policy, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, our country’s oldest ally continues to take steps to build bridges that not only benefit the region, but have very positive consequences for America’s long-term interests in Africa. I’m referring here to recent events that demonstrate how Morocco’s strategic ties to the continent have significant implications for our economic and security interests in the region.

I have just attended the second US-Morocco Business Development Conference in Rabat, Morocco. No ordinary business meeting, it is part of the Morocco-US Strategic Dialogue, and seeks to promote stronger trade and investment ties and greater utilization of the Morocco-US Free Trade Agreement (FTA). I was impressed by the more than 100 US and Moroccan companies, agencies, and organizations that participated in the program, which focused on the investment climate in Morocco, the role of Morocco as a gateway to Africa, and sessions on automotive and aeronautic manufacturing and renewable and other energies.


Obama and Congress Aligned on Supporting Morocco in Western Sahara

January 21, 2014

Edward M. Gabriel (Ambassador to Morocco, 1997-2001)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Gabriel’s January 20, 2014 special to Middle East Online.


Every example of bipartisanship—and even more rarely, cooperation—between the Executive and Congress is to be cherished these days, especially when it comes to foreign policy. So the passage of the Omnibus Appropriations bill with important bipartisan language supporting our close ally Morocco’s efforts to secure and stabilize a key part of troubled North Africa is one such occasion. Just as importantly, it provides welcome additional momentum towards a resolution of the conflict in the Western Sahara.


US-Morocco Strategic Partnership: Two Centuries of Unwavering Friendship

January 7, 2014

Edward M. Gabriel (Ambassador to Morocco, 1997-2001)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Gabriel’s December 21, 2013 special to Middle East Online.


At their November 22 meeting in the White House, held against the backdrop of nuclear talks with Iran and the ongoing civil war in Syria, President Obama and Morocco’s King Mohammed VI took full advantage to enhance the strategic alliance between the US and a critical American ally and longtime friend in the Middle East/North Africa region.

In the joint statement issued after the meeting, the two leaders “stressed that this important visit provides an opportunity to map out a new and ambitious plan for the strategic partnership,” and they “pledged to advance our shared priorities of a secure, stable, and prosperous Maghreb, Africa, and Middle East.”


Morocco: Fifty years later, a steadfast friend

November 25, 2013

Edward M. Gabriel (Ambassador to Morocco, 1997-2001)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Gabriel’s November 22, 2013 special to The Hill.


It happened fifty years ago today, yet like most Americans alive at the time, I remember hearing the news of President Kennedy’s assassination as if it were yesterday. I was sitting in my eighth grade classroom at St. Joseph’s Catholic School in upstate New York. The announcement was made over the loudspeaker, and moments later we heard the nuns’ terrified whispers. The president—the first Catholic president—had been killed. In shock, we were sent home early to be with and grieve with our families.

Even as a kid I knew that the United States had lost a beloved leader in President John F. Kennedy. We lived in a scary world. The threat of communism loomed over the country. The news spoke of despots in Cuba, in Russia… A guerilla war in Vietnam raged on. And the assassination made it seem even scarier.


Democracy Day Came and Went, but in Morocco, Reform is Here to Stay

September 20, 2013

Edward M. Gabriel (Ambassador to Morocco, 1997-2001)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Gabriel’s special to Middle East Online.


As the sixth annual UN International Day of Democracy came and went this past Sunday, the sad fact is that times are tough for democracy across the Middle East and North Africa. Syria remains locked in strife; unrest continues in Egypt; and violence persists in Libya. Elsewhere in the region, countries struggle to establish democratic practices and institutions to live up to the promise of the Arab Spring.

Fortunately, one country, Morocco, has a different story to tell. As others in the region labor to find a peaceful path forward, express themselves freely, or simply create a functioning government, Moroccans are engaged in a process of open dialogue and debate that has been a hallmark of the country’s continuing progress on democratic, social and economic reforms. Many of the major reforms instituted in Morocco since King Mohammed VI ascended the throne in 1999 have been accomplished through this patient, thoughtful process, including the reform of family law improving women’s rights in 2004 and the 2011 Constitution. Moroccans are asked to tell their government what needs to be done to improve their lives, and they appear to be listened to.

The most recent demonstration of democracy in action in Morocco is the Economic, Social, and Environmental Council (CESE), created to assess how to improve and create more efficient and “effective access to basic human, economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights in Morocco’s southern provinces,” which includes Western Sahara. The CESE project is part of major structural reforms launched by Morocco to build on previous reforms and consolidate democratic practices, sustainable development, and good governance.

CESE addresses five challenges: “boosting the economy; consolidating social cohesion and promoting culture; enhancing social inclusion and consolidating the fight against poverty; ensuring effective protection of the environment and sustainable territorial development; and defining responsible, inclusive governance.”

Over the course of many months, in 50 meetings, the CESE project heard direct – and frank – testimony from more than 1,000 ordinary citizens, business leaders, union officials and civil society activists about social, economic, political and good governance issues, as well as what needs to be done to address them. The Council also reviewed extensive research on the state of development and on potential frameworks for improvement.

CESE’s first report, released this March, noted progress in health, education and basic services, but it also pointed out administrative, political and social problems that need further reforms. The Council will issue a final, comprehensive report, by the end of 2013, addressing these issues and providing recommendations for concrete next steps.

Meaningful steps towards democracy may be elusive in much of the MENA region, but Morocco is maintaining its steady progress, based on open debate and consultation with ordinary citizens, that has marked its path to reform for decades.

Supporting peaceful change in the MENA region

July 17, 2013

Edward M. Gabriel (Ambassador to Morocco, 1997-2001)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Gabriel’s July 16, 2013 post on The Hill.


The Arab Spring has come full circle in Egypt. Faced with growing popular discontent and violent confrontations between opponents and supporters of Mohamed Morsi’s government, the Egyptian military reluctantly stepped in to respond to increasingly assertive and unprecedented popular protests urging a more inclusive political process and new guarantees of democratic government.  Unfortunately, violence has continued despite calls from the new leadership and international community for calm. As all eyes focused on the unrest in Cairo, MSN Arabia, an online American news site, recently gave its international audience an opportunity to indicate which leader they appreciated most in the Arab world. More than a half million people around the world responded. King Mohammed VI of Morocco was recognized for his leadership in the region by more than 64 percent of respondents. Sheikh Khalifa Ben Zaid of the United Arab Emirates came in second with 32 percent.  Every other Arab leader received 2 percent or less of the votes cast.