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National dialogue session yields no agreement

Divergent views on procedures stall progress of talks

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Manama: The fourth session of national talks launched to break a political deadlock in Bahrain has failed to yield new agreements with sides exchanging accusations of holding up progress or eroding robust foundations.

Participants said that they were surprised by the insistence of the coalition of the opposition societies to push for an official representative of King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa being present at the talks.

The demand was flatly rejected by Shaikh Khalid Bin Ali Al Khalifa, the justice minister, who argued that the participants had agreed at the second session that the government was the official side and that it would be represented by three ministers at the talks.

Shaikh Khalid charged that the coalition of the opposition attempted to re-launch issues that had been settled.

“The government is an active participant at the dialogue,” he said. “The government is officially represented and we are serious in our commitment and we want others to be serious in their commitment as well,” he told the media.

However, Sayyed Jameel Kadhem, spokesperson for the coalition of the opposition, said that the move aimed “to ensure a robust platform for the dialogue through correct measures and procedures”.

“We tabled the concept of a representative of His Majesty the King because we wanted to know in what capacity the justice minister would refer the results of the dialogue to His Majesty the king,” he told the media at the end of the session. “If the minister is a participant like all of us and he is not representing the king, then how can he refer the results to him? We need to sort everything out first before we proceed with the dialogue,” he said.

The spokesperson said that the coalition would insist on a representative of the king and not just representatives from the government.

Three ministers are taking part in the dialogue, alongside eight delegates from the coalition of six opposition societies, eight delegates from a coalition of ten other political societies and eight independent parliamentarians.

Ahmad Juma, spokesperson for the coalition of ten societies, said that “there should be no review of past agreements in order to keep moving forward”.

Dalal Al Zayed, one of the four parliamentarians representing the Shura Council, the upper chamber of the bicameral parliament, accused the opposition of stalling the talks.

“We were upset by the opposition demand to have a representative of the king after we reached an agreement on the participants at the dialogue,” she said. “It is obvious that the opposition wants to hold us back and whatever is being raised at the table now is not good for the country and might have negative consequences on the progress of the talks. We do respect the right to raise points freely, but we do hope there is a strong sense of responsibility and we do anticipate bold steps from the opposition,” she said.

The next session is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.