Image Credit: Gulf News

Manama:  Bahrain on Sunday called for the repatriation of 107 Bahraini professional and amateur fishermen held by Qatar.

"The ministers of interior and municipalities and agriculture have been tasked by the government to monitor the conditions of the Bahraini fishermen held in Qatar and to coordinate with their counterparts in Doha to ensure their safe return home," a government spokesman said following the weekly session.

A Bahraini delegation should be formed and sent to Qatar to work with the competent authorities on the issue, the government said.

Both ministries should also ensure that similar incidents should not be repeated.

Ten days ago, Adel Al Taweel, a Bahraini fisherman was shot by Qatari coastguards for allegedly illegally entering Qatari waters. The wounded sailor was subsequently taken to hospital amid promises that he would be allowed to go home in a matter of days. However, the authorities later said that they would put him on trial for illegally entering the country. The Qataris said that they were forced to shoot after the boat did not comply with the orders to vacate the area alongside six other ships spotted on the Qatari radars.

Efforts by Bahrain and a pledge to send a helicopter to repatriate him were rejected by the Qatari authorities, sparking a mini crisis between the two neighbours and Gulf Cooperation Council members.

Qatar said that it was vigilant over its borders following an increase in drug-smuggling activities in the area. Bahraini fishermen say that they have problems recognising the water delimitations between Bahrain and Qatar.

Qatar and Bahrain resorted to the International Court of Justice to end a border dispute that spanned decades. The court's verdict in March 2001 was accepted by both parties and heralded a new era of closer cooperation at all levels.

However, the recent disagreement over Bahrain's nomination of Mohammad Al Mutawa as the next secretary general of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states has seemingly re-opened old wounds.

Manama insists that it has the right to choose its nominee for the top Gulf post, but Doha says that while it recognises Bahrain's right to the position, it does not want Al Mutawa, the information minister during the bitter standoff between the two countries, to be the next GCC head. The GCC summit in Kuwait last December could not bring the divergent views closer and the communiqué of the advisory summit in Riyadh on May 11 skirted the issue.

A Kuwaiti newspaper last week said that the GCC states had asked Kuwait, the GCC chair in 2010, to mediate between the two countries. However, Al Siyassah a day later reported that Bahrain was adamant about Al Mutawa's nomination.