BILATERAL TALKS ON THE CARDS

Bilateral talks between the government and members of the political axes in the Kingdom, supported by the Royal Court, are expected to be held during the week, it was confirmed. Reports which quoted an informed source at the Royal Court on successive meetings as part of government’s efforts to help the now suspended ‘National Consensus Dialogue’ (NCD) enter into a new phase, was validated by Minister of State for Information Affairs and official Government Spokesperson, Sameera Rajab. “Talks will be based on the previous discussions that were held amongst the heads of Shura Council and Parliament and other independent parliamentarians and political societies and will aim towards reaching a consensus on the NCD agenda, without any pre-conditions,” said the report, which affirmed that the ‘Language of Dialogue’ was on the right track and consistent with the reform project of His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. However, Ms. Rajab did not affirm reports on the presence of top authorities in the new talks, which included Deputy Prime Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa. The Royal Court’s move came after the National Alliance Coalition (NAC – Al Fateh societies) had announced its stance of ‘no plans to join the talks’ if resumed on an ‘imposed’ agenda. The decision was taken by NAC subsequent to representatives of political societies being invited by the Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and First Deputy Premier HRH Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, last Wednesday, to discuss the way forward with the talks. “The societies should wait for the talks to happen and then take their decisions,” Ms. Rajab told DT News, on the sidelines of the Press conference held post the regular weekly Cabinet Session yesterday at the Gudaibiya Palace. She was commenting on a second statement from the NAC, in response to the Royal Court’s move, in which the six out of the seven societies reiterated their stand. She firmly dismissed NAC’s claims of ‘underhand’ deals between the government and Al Wefaq National Islamic Society and added that all and any decision on the Dialogue will be transparent and announced in the Media.

National Dialogue with a ‘new face’ sought – Govt. Spokesperson

Meanwhile, Ms. Rajab stressed that negotiations and discussions towards resuming the National Dialogue with a ‘new face’ is very much on, answering questions from the Media regarding the resumption of the Dialogue and its fate. Addressing the Media, Ms. Rajab said that the Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and First Deputy Prime Minister, HRH Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, wanted transparency in every part of the Dialogue. He called for a patient ear and prompt action to the results of the negotiations and discussions held with societies and others accepted by the government.

No change in stance – NAC

NAC member and National Unity Assembly Central Board Member Abdulla Al Huwaihi stressed that the Dialogue agenda and its mechanism must be consulted with the coalition and agreed upon, prior to new round of talks. “This is where we primarily differed – we were called for a meeting by the Prince, which had no agenda and the discussion focused on the Dialogue, which we felt was based on some understanding. The presence of outsiders was also not pleasing,” said Mr. Al Huwaihi. “We stress that the Dialogue is a strategic choice for the coalition and we want a guarantee on our demands,” he added. National Islamic Forum, the seventh society in the NAC, was not part of the agreement, as it stated the need of detailed study into the decision.

NAC criticised

NAC’s Youth wing Al Fateh Youth Coalition (FYC) criticised its parent body’s move to suspend its participation at the NCD, calling it a ‘quick and odd’ decision. “When the Opposition societies (the National Democratic Alliance – NDA, the coalition of the five Opposition political societies) announced their suspension, the NAC had stated that they were in for a ‘shock’ expressing confidence that the Dialogue will proceed and will reach desired solutions. It was a contradictory decision to suspend itself from the talks,” said FYC member Ali Faisal. Welcoming the Royal Court’s initiative, he said the FYC sternly believed that the NAC did not achieve much from the Dialogue and neither did they represent the public demand in a fair manner.

Hopeful of breakthrough before elections

“We are hopeful of a breakthrough in the political situation ahead of parliamentary elections this year, as the common Bahraini public is fed up of living in atmosphere of intimidation,” said FYC leader Rashid Al Jassim. On the other hand, affirming on fair representation in the talks, Mr. Al Jassim said, “The people who attended Al Fateh on February 21, 2011 made their voice heard and halted those who were seeking to topple the regime and put the country in turmoil. They have a strong voice and no change can happen without them having their say.”

Disappointed at the loyalists’ move

The Citizens For Bahrain (CFB) youth expressed its disappointment at the NAC’s negative response towards Prince Salman’s initiative to resume talks. “The NAC, who are viewed as a loyalist group, had put forward its objections to returning to the Dialogue, unless a number of preconditions were met – including rejecting any preconditions from the other parties. There could be concerns about imposing agenda; but, we would certainly have hoped to see a more constructive response to one of the most important initiatives for addressing the crisis in some time,” said CFB spokesperson Mohammed Al Sayed. “This gives the opposition groups the perfect excuse to respond negatively and to keep the unrest boiling away on the streets of Bahrain,” he said. “But we respect the Opposition’s right to have a viewpoint about the nature of this Dialogue; and we certainly would oppose any sides which try to destabilise the Dialogue, or poison the political atmosphere to the degree that constructive talks become impossible,” he concluded.

Source: DT News

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