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Second Bahrain dialogue session set

Bahrainis look for more feel-good impressions despite sceptics

Gulf News

Manama: The second round of a national dialogue in Bahrain to ease tension and end a political deadlock is set for Wednesday afternoon amid high hopes that the talks will be at least as positive as on the first day.

Representatives from societies across the political landscape, independent parliamentarians and government ministers sat at a large table on Sunday to launch a much-anticipated dialogue following months of stalemate.

Eisa Abdul Rahman, the spokesperson for the dialogue, on Tuesday afternoon said that the 27 participants, eight from a coalition of six opposition societies, eight from a coalition of nine societies, eight independent members of parliament and three ministers would be at Al Areen Hotel in the deep south of the country for the second round.

“The session is scheduled to start at 4pm and to end at 8pm as agreed by the participants when they first met on Sunday,” he said. “The time should allow the participants to reach the best results.”

The first sessions are expected to be devoted to laying the ground for the dialogue modalities, agenda and specific procedures.

The opposition took its decision to take part in the talks only a few hours before they were due to start.

“We were still discussing whether we would attend at 12.30pm,” Muneera Fakhro, the liberal figure and only woman under the opposition umbrella, told Gulf News in an indication of the difficulties they faced to make a final decision on their participation.

All the political societies had been informed about the dialogue more than two weeks before it was due to start.

As Bahrainis await more good news on Wednesday evening in a repeat of the feel-good atmosphere reported by the participants at the end of the first session on Sunday, they have concerns that radicals from both sides could stall the forward-looking movement.

Sectarian rhetoric is still strong in the country, especially among conservatives and sceptics, and invariably attempts to undermine efforts to boost the chances of success of the dialogue and to bolster national unity regardless of religious beliefs and political views.

In December, Crown Prince Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa called for an end to bigotry and negativism.

“We must heal these wounds. We must stop the violence,” he said. “We must reduce the fear and we must stop the bigotry. I am not a prince of Sunni Bahrain; I am not a prince of Shiite Bahrain. I am a prince of the Kingdom of Bahrain and all mean a great deal to me personally,” he said at the Manama Dialogue as he promoted the idea of a dialogue between all segments.

“I call for a meeting between all sides – as I believe that only through face to face contact will any real progress be made. Meetings must start to take place to prevent us sliding into an abyss that will threaten all of our national interests as we, here in the Kingdom of Bahrain, although small, are large in what we symbolise, what we represent and what we have achieved,” he said.