Manama: A scheduled round of the national dialogue to reach a consensus on political issues in Bahrain was cancelled after the opposition decided to boycott it.

The meeting on Wednesday afternoon was planned to bring together two representatives from each of the four components participating in the national dialogue – an alliance of opposition political societies, an alliance of other political societies, the parliament and the government – to discuss new ideas that will be submitted to the larger groups of participants next week.

However, the two delegates from the opposition did not show up at the premise of the talks in the capital Manama and the six other representatives were told that the meeting was cancelled just minutes after the scheduled start time.

The opposition attributed its move to boycott the round of talks to a decision announced by the justice ministry on Tuesday requesting local political societies planning to meet foreign diplomats or government representatives to coordinate with the ministry of foreign affairs.

Under the decision, all contacts between Bahraini political societies and diplomatic missions and consulates in Bahrain or foreign organisations and government institutions or representatives of foreign governments must be done in coordination with the foreign ministry.

The contacts should be held in the presence of a representative from the foreign ministry or any other party the ministry selects, and the political societies should inform the ministry of justice on the coordination with the ministry of foreign affairs at least three working days before the day of the contact, according to the decision.

The new rules apply to the contacts that political societies have with foreign political organisations outside Bahrain.

“The issue of taking part in the round of talks or boycotting had been intensively discussed by our societies,” Abdul Nabi Salman, the secretary general of the Progressive Democratic Tribune, one of the five members in the alliance of the opposition, said. “We decided not to participate to show our displeasure with the ministerial decision on contacts with diplomatic missions. We are committed to the dialogue, but we reject such decisions against the political societies,” he said.

The opposition societies would hold a meeting “within the coming days” to decide whether they would attend next week’s round of talks, he said.

However, Ahmad Sanad Al Binali, the secretary general of the Islamic Arabic Al Wasat Society, a member of the other political alliance, said that the position of the opposition “showed they were not serious about the national dialogue.”

“Their priority is their self-serving interests that come ahead of the country’s higher interests,” he said, “Such practices by the opposition indicate that they do not give real weight to the other participants in the dialogue. They should assume their responsibilities fully and refrain from stalling the dialogue launched to put an end to the political crisis in the country,” he said.

The ministerial decision to restrict contacts with diplomats and foreign organisation representatives was hailed by several political formations, but criticised by the opposition.