Washington: US Secretary of State John Kerry pushed Bahrain on Monday to step up reforms and boost human rights as he met his counterpart from the Gulf kingdom shaken by two years of protests.

The top US diplomat spoke with Bahraini Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmad Al Khalifa behind closed doors, with neither making a public statement after the talks.

“Human rights were part of the discussion, and specifically, in terms of urging them to make additional progress,” acting deputy State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell told journalists.

Kerry “noted the reforms that Bahrain has made and encouraged them to do more in the process so they can continue in order to ensure long-term stability in Bahrain”.

The strategic tiny kingdom of Bahrain, home to the US Fifth Fleet, has been rocked since February 2011 by a wave of protests.

A recent State Department human rights report criticised Bahrain for “citizens’ inability to change their government peacefully; arrest and detention of protesters on vague charges” as well as “torture in detention”.

The report also highlighted that “discrimination on the basis of gender, religion, nationality, and sect persisted, especially against the Shiite population”.

Manama reacted with “dismay” at the charges.

“They’ve made some progress, but we want them to make more progress in terms of implementing all the recommendations” of a recent national inquiry, Ventrell said.

“So while we encourage the efforts under way, we want them to follow through on them.”