Turkey hails Morocco’s peaceful transition, eyes improved ties

Turkey hails Morocco’s peaceful transition, eyes improved ties

Turkey has praised Morocco's peaceful political transformation at a time of political unrest sweeping across the Arab world that has turned out to be bloody and violent in varying degrees, pledging to improve bilateral relations between the two countries, Today's Zaman reported.

"We will establish High Level Strategic Cooperation Council with Morocco. We will build deep relations within the framework of joint action plan between the two countries. We attach special importance to Morocco because this country had peacefully realized the Arab Spring process and completed democratic elections without any societal tensions," Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told a joint news conference with his Moroccan counterpart in Ankara on Monday.

Like the rest of the region, Morocco was swept by pro-democracy protests decrying widespread corruption, which the king attempted to defuse over the last summer by ordering the constitution modified to grant more powers to the Parliament and prime minister and then holding elections a year earlier.

Morocco, a close US ally and popular European tourist destination suffers from high unemployment and widespread poverty.

Street protests in the country, inspired by the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt, which aimed to press King Mohammed, one of the biggest stakeholders in the Moroccan economy, to change the Arab world's longest-ruling dynasty into a British- or Spanish-style monarchy.

The 48-year old king offered to hand some powers to elected officials while retaining a key say in strategic areas. Protests have continued, however, and the palace hoped early parliamentary polls last November would satisfy critics.

With almost a third of youth unemployed, high poverty rates, a poor education system and problems with nepotism and corruption, Morocco seems in the eyes of some analysts to contain all the ingredients for a revolt. The Nov. 25 elections last year produced Morocco's most representative government to date, giving it a fresh chance to address deep-rooted economic problems. Under changes approved in a July, 2011 referendum, King Mohammed handed over some powers to elected officials while keeping a decisive say in strategic decisions.

Instead of the king, it will be the prime minister who names the heads of strategic state-run firms, such as the phosphate monopoly, the central bank and the national airline, as well as senior bureaucrats in ministries. The king will still vet these appointments but it is hoped that the new system will produce more coherent economic policy-making.

Davutoglu congratulated the electoral victory of the Justice and Development Party (PJD), a party of moderate Islamists, and said both countries are determined to advance relations to a new and broader framework.

As Islamic conservative groups emerge triumphant in Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco, Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) under Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan seems decided to act as their mentor.

Turkish foreign minister said they made important decisions with his Moroccan counterpart Saad Eddine Othmani to improve bilateral relations between the two countries in Monday's talks and that the foreign ministers will exchange visits every year without delay. He also invited Moroccan king and the prime minister to Turkey.

Davutoglu said Turkey and Morocco will amend necessary legal infrastructure to mature the relations and boost annual mutual trade volume to $3 billion.

He added that they have also discussed regional developments with the visiting official and that both countries will act together in the UN and with respect to the violence in Syria where a year-long uprising has resulted in at least 8,000 deaths.

Davutoglu hailed Morocco's what he said "exemplary peaceful political transition" and said Turkey is determined to be in solidarity with a Moroccan government that has successfully completed this political process. Davutoglu said Turkey's support to Morocco will be "unlimited" and its success mirrors voices of people in other countries clamoring for political change.

Othmani also had talks with Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul on Monday.

A statement in Turkish Presidency's web-site said Gul told Othmani that Turkey applauded peaceful political transition of Morocco in the face of massive transformation in the Arab world. Gul said the bilateral relations between the two countries have notably accelerated and mentioned a 2006 deal on free trade as a tangible example of "high level" of the ties.

Gul also invited King Mohamed to Turkey and asked the foreign minister to convey his best wishes.

In a conference in Ankara, Othmani told participants that what happened in the region in the past year showed that there would not be development and prosperity without democracy.

Noting that his country preserved its political rule while fulfilling the reforms, Othmani said Morocco had been in cooperation and dialogue with the people, political parties and non-governmental organizations while making the sweeping reforms. He added that Turkey is an important power not only in its region but also in the world.

He stressed that Turkey deserves an appreciation for things it has made for Syrian people who sought refuge in Turkey, fleeing violence in their country.

Othmani claimed that the attitude Erdogan assumed against Syrian regime as well as Israel regarding the situation in Gaza is very important.

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