Bahraini Government Proposes Talks, Opposition Accepts
Justice Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ali al-Khalifa invited political opposition parties to resume talks following a royal directive that ordered him to resume political discussions with “representatives of the political societies and independent members of the political community.” Bahrain’s parliament welcomed the Justice Minister’s invitation. Speaker Khalifa al-Dhahrani said, “The dialogue will be beneficial for the present and future of the country and will boost stability and security.”
Khalil al-Marzook of al-Wefaq, the largest opposition group, welcomed the invitation and said their members are “ready to partner with the ruling family and the community to find solutions.” Al-Wefaq senior official Khalil al-Marzouq added, “The opposition is inclined to participate and to have representatives in this dialogue, hoping that this dialogue will be a serious one.” The group is cautious however and wants more details about how agreements will be reached and implemented. In addition, some members of al-Wefaq are skeptical of the King’s motives, Marzook commented that this might be apart of the “seasonal call for dialogue” and simply a ploy to discourage protests ahead of the February 14 anniversary of the 2011 government crackdown.
The Bahraini royal family initiated the first discussion with opposition groups in July 2011 when it formed the National Dialogue Conference . The conference, which failed to produce meaningful results and barred many groups from participating, drew widespread criticism from the activist community. Further calls for dialogue came from the crown prince this past December but a month later the Bahraini courts upheld convictions against 13 activists for their pro-democracy work. BBC Middle East analyst Bill Law points out the significance in the government’s new call “to resume political discussions,” saying, “In the past the emphasis has been on a “national dialogue” which avoided references to political solutions.”