High expectations as sixth round of talks opens

March 16, 2013

Bahrainis are looking forward to another ray of hope as participants in the national dialogue convene for the sixth round on Wednesday afternoon.

Launched on February 10, the talks have brought together a coalition of six opposition societies, a coalition of ten other societies, the parliament and the government to help heal political wounds that scarred the country and divided the society.

Following four rounds of talks at Al Areen resort in the deep south of the country, pessimism about reaching the first compromise prevailed with no breakthrough seeming possible.

However, the fifth round brought the much-anticipated news of an advance in the talks and a concrete nudge towards positive results.

“For the first time I am really optimistic,” Muneera Fakhro, one of the eight delegates for the coalition of the opposition societies, said during the fifth round of talks on February 27. “The conversations were very slow earlier, but today, I am optimistic about the future,” she said as she left the hall where the 27 men and women involved in the dialogue discussed several issues for four hours.

The breakthrough occurred after the participants agreed to set aside a request by the opposition coalition to have a representative of the king at the dialogue.

“We are requesting the presence of a representative of the king at the dialogue so that we can move forward,” the opposition had said at the fourth round of the talks on February 24.

However, the other coalition as well as the parliamentarians and the ministers said that the presence of a representative of the king was not required and insisted that the agreements endorsed by the participants during the second round specifically stipulated the presence of representatives from the government, not the king.

On Saturday, the royal court ruled out the participation of a representative of the king in the dialogue and said that the monarch “was for all and with all people and that he stood equidistant from all sides”.

“His Majesty the King views all participants in the dialogue as equals,” Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmad Al Khalifa, the minister of the royal court, said. “HM [His Majesty] sees them as citizens who are taking part in a patriotic act for the sake of their country. This means that no side at the dialogue represents HM the king against the other components,” he said.

According to Shaikh Khalid, the ministers taking part in the dialogue stood on equal footing with the other participants and had the same rights and duties.

In the Qatari capital Doha, US Secretary of State Jon Kerry told the media that his country supported the dialogue in Bahrain and that he discussed the talks with his Bahraini counterpart, Shaikh Khalid.

“We talked about the dialogue. The Foreign Minister made it clear to me that they remain committed to the dialogue, that they are engaged right now in advancing it, they’re at some important stages within it, progress is being made. And what I did was encourage him to continue that dialogue and to reach a resolution with respect to some of these difficult issues,” Kerry said at a press conference.

“He assured me that they are going to continue in good faith, and obviously, all of us encourage that and look forward to some positive results.”




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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