Bahrain opposition talks to start Sunday

Gov't says it is keen to open dialogue in an effort to end two years of protests
Bahrain opposition talks to start Sunday
(AFP/Getty Images)
By Neil King
Wed 06 Feb 2013 10:56 AM

Reconciliation talks could soon begin
between Bahrain and opposition groups, says the government, with opening exchanges
due to take place on Sunday.

The two sides will meet in an attempt to
end almost two years of civil unrest which have seen protesters demand more
democracy in the Gulf Arab state.

Protests erupted in early 2011 calling for
a constitutional monarchy with an elected government. The forthcoming talks are
seen as crucial to restoring stability to the oil-rich kingdom, and Bahraini
officials said invitations would be issued to about 17 pro-government and
opposition groups, as well as delegates from the two houses of parliament.

Information Affairs minister Samira Rajab
said: “We have every intention to make this dialogue a success. The onus is on
the other parties and their seriousness in pursuing dialogue.”

While willing to participate, senior
officials of opposition groups have said that they are at odds with the
government over the aims and mechanism of the talks.

Khalil al-Marzouq of main opposition group
Wefaq said they want representatives of the ruling Al Khalifa family to
participate, and for international experts to attend, but that the government
has either rejected these demands or deferred them for discussion at the talks.

“We want a real dialogue, serious
negotiations on a mechanism that will restore powers to the people and turn
Bahrain into a constitutional monarchy,” he told Reuters.

Since protests began, inspired by Arab
Spring demonstrations in Tunisia and Egypt, Bahraini officials say the Kingdom
has introduced major reforms which increase parliament’s powers to question and
remove ministers and to withdraw confidence in the cabinet.

The opposition, however, say these reforms
are cosmetic because they do not challenge the royal family’s monopoly on
ultimate power.

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