Bahrain prepares for reconciliation talks

  • Share via facebook
  • Tweet this
  • Bookmark and Share
Bahrain has seen near daily protests since the start of the unrest in early 2011.

Bahrain has seen near daily protests since the start of the unrest in early 2011.

Bahrain has asked pro-democracy opposition parties to nominate delegates for talks to try to break nearly two years of political deadlock in the Gulf Arab state.

The island state, base for the US Navy's Fifth Fleet, has been in turmoil since protests erupted in 2011 led by majority Shi'ite Muslims demanding an end to the Sunni-led monarchy's political domination and full powers for parliament.

Thirty-five people died during the unrest and two months of martial law that followed, but the opposition puts that number at more than 80. The government rejects the figures and has accused opposition groups of being linked to Shi'ite power Iran.

Khalil al-Marzouq, a leader of the main opposition bloc Wefaq, said the Justice Ministry's director general had contacted him and asked the opposition to nominate six representatives for the talks.

"He was also getting in touch with other groups from the loyalist side," Marzouq told Reuters. "They have started taking steps, but they are still very slow steps, and no one still has any picture of what is going to happen."

Though martial law has been lifted and Bahrain has introduced some reforms, the opposition sees the measures as cosmetic and smaller scale protests have continued.

The call for dialogue was welcomed by the EU.

"The EU stands ready to support the process as and when wished by the Bahraini side," said Michael Mann, spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

The Justice Ministry said the first meetings would try to agree on an agenda for the talks, the state's BNA news agency said, without giving further details.

Information Minister Samira Rajab had earlier welcomed the opposition's response to the invitation, made on Monday by the Justice Ministry on behalf of King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa, and said the government would ask all parties to name delegates to the talks, which she said could start soon.

"All the steps will start. I think the time frame will go fast, as long as all the parties are willing to go through positive, very serious dialogue," she said.

She said the government would moderate the event, help set the agenda and implement any recommendations.

"As far as I understand, the government won't be represented there. They will be the moderators, the regulator," she said without elaborating.

Opposition groups say previous promises of constructive dialogue by the authorities have come to nothing and accuse the government of continuing to crush dissent.

But six opposition groups said after a meeting in Bahrain on Tuesday they welcomed the king's call for talks and said the two sides need to jointly work on implementing any accord within an agreed time frame and with proper guarantees.

"We have to learn from the previous (round) of dialogue in order to ensure we do not fail this time," Marzouq said.

Talks in July 2011 ended inconclusively after Wefaq withdrew, complaining it had not been allowed enough representation at the negotiations, and there were too many handpicked participants to reach a meaningful consensus.

Shi'ite Muslims complain of discrimination in the electoral system, jobs, housing, education and government departments.

Join the Discussion

Disclaimer:The view expressed here by our readers are not necessarily shared by Arabian Business, its employees, sponsors or its advertisers.

Please post responsibly. Commenter Rules

  • No comments yet, be the first!

Enter the words above: Enter the numbers you hear:

All comments are subject to approval before appearing

Further reading

Features & Analysis
Women edge into Gulf boardrooms as economies, societies shift

Women edge into Gulf boardrooms as economies, societies shift

Amina al-Rustamani, CEO of TECOM Investments, is leading the...

Concerned for stability, Saudi Arabia tightens curbs on dissent

Concerned for stability, Saudi Arabia tightens curbs on dissent

Gulf kingdom intensifies crackdown on domestic dissent, raising...

Frustrated Kuwaitis ask, why is Kuwait falling behind?

Frustrated Kuwaitis ask, why is Kuwait falling behind?

Citizens wonder why oil producer Kuwait is not as dynamic a hub...

Most Discussed
  • 54
    Three UAE women attacked with hammer at London hotel

    I really feel that Arabian Business.Com should now close this comments page. This should be all about sympathy for the families not what it is/has turned... more

    Wednesday, 16 April 2014 1:06 PM - Adrienne
  • 51
    Why Dubai isn't a plastic city

    What is definitely not a plastic city. The Arabs have a culture dating back to several centuries. 50 years back Dubai was just a fishing village. Today... more

    Tuesday, 8 April 2014 3:49 PM - P. MADHUSUDAN
  • 48
    DMCC boss Ahmed Bin Sulayem entertains Robert Mugabe in Dubai

    @fga ''However today, simply because he decided to dispossess a few white farmers of their land and redistribute to the poorer indigenous blacks'' more

    Sunday, 13 April 2014 3:02 PM - Matt Williams