Bahrain foreign minister calls for release of fishermen held by Qatar

June 12, 2010
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Bahrain is still looking into whether the fishermen currently held in Doha were arrested in Bahraini or Qatari waters, the foreign minister said on Saturday.

“Either way, the arrest of Bahraini nationals who did not commit a crime is not within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) principles and spirit,” Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmad Al Khalifa said.  “While we welcome the release of some of the fishermen, we call upon the concerned authorities to allow the remaining detainees to go home and to give them back their possessions,” the minister told the foreign affairs, defence and national security committee at the lower house.

Tension flared between Bahrain and Qatar after a Bahraini fisherman, Adel Al Taweel, was shot by Qatari coastguards last month after he failed to heed their warning shots. He was taken to a hospital in Doha, but Qatari authorities rejected a Bahraini offer to have him checked by a Bahraini team and repatriate him.

The Qatari snub was part of a recent standoff between the two neighbours over the nomination of Mohammad Al Mutawa as the next GCC secretary general. The nominee was endorsed by the other GCC states, but Qatar said that Bahrain should select another figure. Although it never publicly explained its objection, Qatar seemed to be upset with Al Mutawa for his statements and declaration as information minister during the border dispute that was eventually settled by the International Court of Justice in March 2001. The deadlock persisted through the GCC summit in December in Kuwait and in May in Riyadh when the six GCC leaders met for their annual advisory summit.

The matter was solved after Saudi King Abdullah requested Bahrain to nominate another personality instead of Al Mutawa and Manama opted for Abdul Lateef Al Zayani, the head of public security.

Bahrain’s acceptance of the Saudi compromise raised hopes that the remaining of 107 Bahraini and Asian fishermen would be released by Qatar in the first week of June. However, and despite the repatriation of some fishermen, several Bahrainis, including Al Tawell, and Asians remain in Qatar’s custody.

“Bahrain has always treated the citizens of the Council as its own and we have always stressed that the lands and seas of the GCC states are one space for its sons and daughters,” Shaikh Khalid said. “We do hope that they can move through this vital space without impediments and obstacles in line with the keenness of the Gulf leaders on the comfort and well-being of their citizens,” he said.  

The minister last month urged the GCC to adopt new measures to allow GCC fishermen to move more freely within the GCC waters.

         

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About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Career
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
Education
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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