Manama: National talks in Bahrain seemed to stall as the various sides traded accusations over responsibility for the stagnation.
“It was a session in which the coalition of the opposition wanted to stall the dialogue,” said Ahmad Juma, the spokesperson for the Al Fateh coalition, an umbrella for 10 political societies.
“They kept on prolonging the debate over the platform of the dialogue and deliberately procrastinating [in] the debate over the major issues on the agenda. The opposition once more submitted a paper on issues that were settled during the second and third sessions, including a so-called fair representation. This means that we cannot move forward by one iota.”
However, Jameel Kadhim, the spokesperson for the coalition of six opposition societies, said that they attended the session to discuss the agenda set by the action group on Sunday and to add new points to it.
“It is our right whether they accept it or not, but some parties refused the principle,” he said. “We insist that no-one has the right to hijack our views, just like we have no right to hijack the views of the other parties. There are issues raised by the other sides that we do not support, and yet we accepted to have them on the agenda.”
The opposition has been pushing for having a representative of the king at the table of the dialogue, which was launched on February 10 to help heal the deep wounds that have afflicted Bahrain for almost two years.
The presence of a representative would help move the stalled dialogue forward and would ensure better results, the opposition said.
However, Al Fateh, the parliamentarians and the government ministers, the other components in the dialogue, rejected the proposal, arguing that the king was the head of the state and that he would refer the outcome to the parliament for implementation.
“When the opposition was invited to take part in the dialogue, they knew very well who would be at the table and their numbers,” Juma said. “Now, after more than four weeks, they question the issue of the participants and even their character. It is plain clear that they do not want the dialogue to move forward and address the crisis and that is why we turned down their proposal. There should be no backtracking.”
However, Kahhim said that the opposition had been “very flexible” in dealing with the other participants.
“We had our own draft, but it was rejected,” he said. “The justice minister suggested that each of the sides submits its views on Sunday when we meet again. However, he said that the issue of having a king’s representative at the talks should be ruled out.”
The justice minister is one of the three ministers representing the government at the talks. The parliament has eight representatives, four from each of the two chambers, and each of the two political coalitions has eight members. The next session will be held on Sunday and despite the deadlock, no side talked about abandoning the talks.
Majed Al Nuaimi, the education minister, in remarks following the seventh session he attended on Wednesday evening, ruled out resorting to foreign parties for the talks.
“The national dialogue is a purely Bahraini domestic issue and we refuse any external interference,” he said.
The idea of requesting technical assistance from other countries or international organisations has also been rejected by Al Fateh and the parliamentarians, who insisted on the Bahraini character of the talks.
Bahrain has invariably refused to allow any country or high-profile figure to mediate in the crisis, which began after political divergences flared up in February 2011.
Bahrainis are well capable of addressing their domestic issues and of moving past differences, officials have said.