EU joins Bahrain dialogue welcome chorus

February 13, 2013

The European Union on Monday welcomed the national dialogue in Bahrain hours after it was launched and called upon all parties to reject and refrain from inciting violence.

“I welcome the resumption of national dialogue in Bahrain yesterday following the call of King Hamad, and hope that discussions will meet the legitimate expectations of all Bahrainis,” said Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission.

“The success of this process very much depends on constructive cooperation between the government, the opposition and all Bahraini citizens. I urge again [to] all sides to engage in a meaningful dialogue that is as inclusive as possible and without preconditions. I call on all parties to refrain from inciting violence and to reject it unequivocally in all its forms,” she said.

Ashton said that she “firmly believes that the dialogue between the parties is the best way to rebuild trust and to achieve genuine national reconciliation by tackling outstanding issues and socio-economic grievances, thereby preparing the ground for sustainable reforms”.

She added: “As I have already stated on several occasions, the European Union stands ready to provide support to this process, if and when requested by Bahrain.”

On Sunday afternoon, 27 people — including five women — representing a coalition of six opposition societies, another coalition of nine political societies, the lower chamber of the bicameral parliament and the government sat together for the first time since July 2011 to agree on the modalities of talks in an attempt to heal deep rifts within the country.

At the end of four hours of direct talks at the opulent setting of Al Areen Palace in the deep south of the country, the participants said that they were pleased with the first session.

“The atmosphere was really positive,” Abdul Nabi Salman, the head of the Progressive Tribune Society, one of the six formations from the opposition, said. “We submitted an objective view and the brothers from the other side wanted to know more about our views. There was an understanding of some of the points we raised, and the overall atmosphere was positive and encouraging,” he said following the session.

Dalal Al Zayed, an independent member of the Shura Council, said that the launch of the dialogue gave hope for all.

“It was encouraging to see all participants take part in the inaugural session,” she said. “Mutual confidence, good intentions and the higher interests of Bahrain were the key factors on way to a successful dialogue.”

Ahmad Juma, the spokesperson for the alliance of nine societies and head of the Mithaq Society, said that the national dialogue was a highly significant step towards greater interaction and a settlement of all issues.

Jameel Kadhem, a leader from Al Wefaq, the largest opposition society, said the participants agreed on the procedures for the talks.

“We were assured that there would be no voting during the discussions,” he said.

Opposition figures earlier said they had concerns that their voices would be drowned out if the participants resorted to voting.

Eisa Abdul Rahman, the spokesperson for the dialogue, told the media that the participants “agreed on meeting twice a week, every Sunday and Wednesday, for four hours every time”.

Moderates in Bahrain welcomed the “positive” start of the talks and flooded the blogosphere with messages of hope and encouragement for a new beginning for the country following more than 22 months of bitter divisions, often driven by sectarian interests.



About the author

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

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