Manama: With less than a week left before the scheduled start of the national dialogue in Bahrain, all parties have reiterated their readiness to engage in the talks.
However, their statements also included reserved caution towards the confidence-building meeting on February 10 aiming to heal the wounds that have scarred the Bahraini society for several months.
On Monday, Shaikh Khalid Bin Ali Al Khalifa, the justice minister, said that the dialogue would bring together eight participants from the opposition alliance, eight from the National Alliance and eight from the two chambers of the bicameral parliament.
The government would send three or four ministers, including Shaikh Khalid, to the talks, but their role could be confined to moderating the dialogue in order to allow the participants to talk with one another.
The minister said that there would be no time limit for the dialogue and that the agenda would be set by the participants when they meet on Sunday. The outcome would be recommendations endorsed by the participants that would be conveyed to the parliament for approval.
However, reports claimed that the alliance of six opposition societies could ask for a postponement of the dialogue to allow it more time to consult with the justice ministry over how the talks will be conducted.
The opposition, referring to the dialogue as negotiations, insisted that they should be between its six societies that formed the alliance and the government.
Opposition figures, addressing a press conference, said that they wanted more details before the start of the talks.
“We will ask for more details about the format of the talks,” they said on Monday. “We want also to know more about the aspects and outcome of the talks, including the fairness of the representation is, the agenda, the time frame, the moderation, the role of the government, the outcome and the guarantees by the authorities,” they said. The National Alliance, an umbrella for nine political formations after one group pulled out, on Tuesday said that it was ready for the talks, but said that it would push for an end to street violence “to ensure a positive context for the dialogue.”
“We do not want to be part of the dialogue merely for the sake of having talks,” Ahmad Juma, the head of the alliance, said. “We want to have a clear and positive for the dialogue platform for the talks by insisting on an end to all forms of violence. We reject the use of violence to exert pressure and we refuse any foreign interference in the talks. We will simply walk out in case there is foreign interference,” he said.