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Public Statements

Joint Statement for the Record - Congressman Joseph R. Pitts and Congressman Donald M. Payne

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Location: Washington, DC


Joint Statement for the Record - Congressman Joseph R. Pitts and Congressman Donald M. Payne

Mr. Speaker, we welcome King Mohammed VI of Morocco to the United States and wish him well during his visit.

We strongly urge His Majesty to uphold and implement his nation's agreements regarding the conflict over the Western Sahara. In addition, we urge His Majesty to uphold UN Security Council Resolution 1541 as a tribute to former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, who promoted international legality and justice while responding to the true long-term interests of both parties concerned in this conflict.

His Majesty's support for the former U.N. Special Envoy Baker's Peace Plan would be the best contribution to peace and stability in the region. In addition, upholding the Peace Plan would demonstrate the effectiveness of the pursuit of national aspirations through non-violence in the greater Middle East, a region that has been the target of much violence.

Mr. Speaker, last week, a number of Members sent a letter to President Bush requesting that during his meeting with the King, he strongly encourage His Majesty to implement the United Nations Settlement Plan in order to achieve a just, peaceful, and lasting resolution to the conflict over Western Sahara. The letter welcomed United Nations Security Council Resolution No. 1541 adopted April 29, 2004, which reaffirmed support for the Peace Plan for Self-Determination of the People of Western Sahara devised by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's Special Envoy, James Baker, and shared deep regret over the departure of Mr. Baker and the circumstances that led to his resignation.

In addition, the letter welcomed the confidence-building measures taken by the Polisario Front which released a further 643 Moroccan POWs since July 2003; the number of POWs the Polisario has liberated since 1991 now totals 1,760.

However, the Members of Congress expressed their regret that the Government of King Mohammed VI has not reciprocated in a commensurate way. The fact that the Sahrawis have opted for non-violence in the affirmation of their identity and have respected the terms of the cease-fire signed in 1991 between their representative and Morocco, is telling in terms of who is committed to settlement of the conflict.

Further, the letter expressed great concern that if the conflict between these two parties is left unresolved, it has the potential to disrupt peace and stability in the Maghreb region, thus threatening the interests of the United States. The Members expressed that the United States should use its unique influence in that region to press the Moroccan Government and the Polisario Front to agree to the Peace Plan and to implement it under the supervision of the United Nations. Although U.S. attention is primarily focused, as it should be on Iraq and on the war against terrorism, the letter underscores the concern of the Members that the Western Sahara conflict needs to be addressed urgently and fairly to the benefit of the peoples of the region and in the interest of the United States. A peaceful, successful resolution of the conflict over Western Sahara will provide a signal to the Broader Middle East and North African region that in the 21st century there are successful alternatives to violence in the pursuit of national aspirations.

Mr. Speaker, we again extend our welcome His Majesty and strongly urge him not to stand in the way of progress towards the peaceful resolution of the conflict over Western Sahara.

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