Merkel urges North Africa to forge ties with EU
7 March 2006, BERLIN - German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday hailed Morocco as a bridge linking Europe with North Africa and called on other states in the region to follow Rabat's example of forging close ties with the European Union.
7 March 2006
BERLIN - German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday hailed Morocco as a bridge linking Europe with North Africa and called on other states in the region to follow Rabat's example of forging close ties with the European Union.
"Morocco is a very good partner for understanding the feelings of the region," said Merkel in a news briefing after talks in Berlin with Morocco's Prime Minister Driss Jettou.
The German leader said other states in the Mediterranean should consider following Rabat in expanding relations with the EU under the bloc's Euro-Mediterranean Partnership launched in 1995.
"Morocco is playing a leading role and this can be expanded," said Merkel who underlined that what made Morocco special in the Euro-Med group was its emphasis not merely on trade but also on boosting political and cultural exchanges.
Prime Minister Jettou, who will visit Brussels later this week, said he was keen to further deepen what he termed his country's "privileged" relations with the EU.
The Euro-Med group has 35 members, the 25 EU states and Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey. Libya has held observer status since 1999.
Praising Morocco's reforms and freedom of the press, Merkel said both leaders had discussed the ongoing controversy over publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed in European newspapers.
Asked about a possible deal on the Western Sahara, which Morocco claims and has administered since annexing the territory in the late 1970s, Jettou stressed any deal could not question his country's sovereignty over the region.
"We want a political solution ... giving the greatest possible autonomy but respecting Morocco's territorial integrity," he said.
A UN-administered cease-fire has been in effect in Western Sahara since September 1991 but attempts to hold a referendum to decide the territory's future have failed.
Subject: German news