France stresses dialogue as best way forward for Bahrain
Dialogue is the best way to break the vicious circle of violence and counter-violence in Bahrain, the French ambassador in Manama has said. “We hope that the five coalition parties that have recently suspended their participation in the dialogue will come back and resume their participation,” Christian Testot said.
“It is necessary for Bahrainis to find a way to agree because there is no alternative to dialogue to reach an agreement on a formula that allows the coexistence and satisfaction of all parties, no matter how different their views are. Such a goal is achievable only through dialogue,” the ambassador told Bahrain News Agency (BNA).
The dialogue, launched on February 10, brought together representatives from a coalition of five opposition societies, a coalition of other political societies, the parliament and the government.
The participants, eight from each of the non-official components and three from the government, have yet to agree on the agenda of the talks devoted to political issues. The opposition and the three other groups have often waded into disagreements, mainly over the representation at the table and the outcome of the dialogue.
The opposition last month said that it was suspending its participation to ask for the release of Khalil Marzooq, an opposition figure who was arrested on charges of “inciting and advocating terrorism, using his leadership position in a legally organised political society to incite crimes and being affiliated with a terrorist organisation.”
He will be put on trial on October 24. “By virtue of the friendship between my country and the Kingdom of Bahrain, we sincerely urge all parties to find a way that satisfies of all parties, without frustrating any side, that makes it imperative for each party to make positive steps forward because they would be in the interest of the country,” Ambassador Testot said.
The ambassador said that relations between Bahrain and France were “very good”. “We work every day to strengthen them to the highest levels. As you know, His Majesty King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa paid a visit to France in July 2012 and had a very good meeting with President Hollande. The two heads of states decided on this occasion to deepen this relationship by establishing a high bilateral Franco-Bahraini committee whose text will be signed soon in Bahrain.
“This document covers all aspects of our relationships, be they political, economic, or in the field of education and higher education. Bahrain is a friendly country and France wishes to increase its presence in the Kingdom. Concerning foreign policy, I was able to witness that on several topics such as Mali, Syria, regional security and many other issues, our approaches are essentially the same,” he said. Referring to the trade relations between Manama and Paris, Ambassador Testot said that France was among the top investors in Bahrain between 2000 and 2010 in the energy, infrastructure and banking sectors. Around 1,000 French nationals live in Bahrain.