CONGRESSIONAL MEETING NOTES
Date: May 30, 2007
Submitted by: Jordan Paul
Member of Congress: Sen. Kerry
Names of Participants:
Frank Lowenstein (Foreign Policy Advisor for Sen. Kerry),
Amb. Mekouar, Ed Gabriel, Jordan Paul
Synopsis of remarks, including Q&A:
Frank Lowenstein began the meeting by saying that this was his first meeting on the subject. The Ambassador then said he would start at the beginning.
The Ambassador took about 15 minutes to outline the history of the region from before Spanish Colonization through Baker II. Ed then reviewed how the Clinton Administration and subsequently the George W. Bush Administration had pushed Morocco to offer the autonomy proposal as a compromise to end the 30-year problem. Ed further explained how Congressional support was critical to solving this issue and showed Frank a copy of the 173 signature letter. Ed also previewed the VIP letter to be released on June 6, 2007. Frank was impressed with both letters and said that this sounded like a fairly cutand-dried issue.
Ed said that the most recent terrorist attacks in North Africa, attributed to the rise of AQM, made it an even better issue for Sen. Kerry. Frank then asked what Senator Kerry could to help to bring the issue to a satisfactory resolution. Ed replied that we were looking for letter of support from the Foreign Relations committee. Then, Ed mentioned that we had briefed other members of the Committee, including Lugar, Biden, Coleman, and Cardin. He said that we had received general support, but that we also had some detractors that Frank should know about.
Ed explained that Kennedy, Leahy, Feingold, and Inhofe were generally against us on this issue – though Feingold appeared to be more pragmatic. Frank said that he was glad that we mentioned this. He then asked us why the three Democrats didn’t see this issue our way (he wasn’t concerned about Sen. Inhofe). Ed said that it varied from member to member but that human rights and the issue of self-determination were the primary reasons. Ed went on to explain Morocco’s serious efforts to curb human rights abuses were the best in the Arab world but that abuses, unfortunately, still continued. Ed mentioned that he genuinely saw the glass as half full and that he would bet on Morocco to follow through on their serious reforms. Ed mentioned the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
The Ambassador then defended Morocco’s human rights record and blamed the recent events on the Polisario intentionally inciting the Moroccan security forces.
Frank said that he was very glad that we had brought this to our attention. He mentioned that he would discuss the possibility of a letter and that he thought it was something that Sen. Kerry would be willing to do.
From Ed, “Meeting with Frank Lowenstein of Kerry staff was productive.”
From Jordan Paul: it was a very long and productive meeting. Frank now has the full picture of Western Sahara as the issue relates to Congress.
Follow-up Actions: Keep Frank informed of latest developments and press him on the letter from the Senate.