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Bahraini Opposition Threaten National Dialogue Boycott | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Dammam, Asharq Al-Awsat-At the same time that the Bahraini government is putting the finishing touches on its preparations for next week’s national dialogue, the opposition has threatened to boycott unless consensus can be reached regarding the main topics of discussion.

Bahrain’s six opposition groups, led by the Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, issued a statement stressing “the need to agree on the mechanism and the rules of the national dialogue.” Bahrain officials confirmed that the national dialogue is set to begin on 10 February, calling on the opposition to nominate figures to attend. Bahrain’s six main opposition groups called on the Bahraini government to postpone the national dialogue until an agreement can be reached on a number of major points.

Before agreeing to attend the planned national dialogue, the Bahraini opposition is calling for a response to a request it sent to the Bahraini Minister of Justice on January 28, which among other issues asserted that the dialogue’s results must be definitive and actionable resolutions, rather than recommendations. The opposition called on the Bahraini government to respond to its requests otherwise it will refuse to attend.

However Bahraini Information Minister, Dr. Samira Rajab, confirmed that the Bahraini government had responded to the opposition’s demands on the same day. She characterized the Bahraini’s opposition’s threat to boycott the national dialogue unless it receives a reply to its demands as a “weak excuse” confirming that Manama had already responded to this in a clear and frank manner.

She stressed that all parties participating in this dialogue, including the opposition, are aware that this dialogue is a continuation of the National Consensus Dialogue that took place in 2011, adding that its mechanisms have already been announced.

Dr. Rajab emphasized that no one party can impose the national dialogue’s agenda or mechanism on the other participating parties. As for the possibility of the opposition boycotting the dialogue, the Bahraini Information Minister said, “The dialogue, as all parties have expressed, is the solution to end this state of social and national division, and anybody who does not attend will be revealing their intransigent position opposing dialogue and national consensus.” For his part, opposition al-Wefaq leader, Abdul-Jalil Khalil, stressed that the opposition parties have yet to take a final decision on whether to attend or boycott the national dialogue, confirming that both options are on the table and the opposition’s position will depend on the government’s response.

He said, “The opposition is now talking about postponing the day that the dialogue is set to start till after February 10 until the main points of discussion can be decided.” Khalil also denied that the calls to postpone the national dialogue have any connection with the Bahraini opposition delegation that is visiting Moscow, with this trip scheduled to end on the same day that the National Dialogue begins.

He said, “The opposition sent a message to the Justice Minister on January 28 putting forward nine points that we views as being critical for the national dialogue’s success.” He denied that the opposition had received any official response to this message, adding that the only message received by the opposition confirmed the timing of the dialogue, and requested the nomination of opposition name to take part in this national dialogue.

He also revealed that the opposition has called for a number of independent figures to be invited to take part in the national dialogue, as well as guarantees that the dialogue’s decisions will result in actionable decisions, not recommendations. He stressed that the opposition’s participation, or boycotting, of the national dialogue will largely depend on the government’s response to this latter point.

According to Khalil, the six Bahraini opposition groups-Wefaq National Islamic Society, National Democratic Action Society (Waad), National Democratic Gathering Society (Al-Qawmi), Unitary National Democracy Assemblage (Wahdway), and Ekhaa National Society-will meet on Saturday to make a final decision on whether to attend the proposed national dialogue on Sunday.

National Dialogue spokesman, Isa Abdul Rahman, told Asharq Al-Awsat that preparations are underway to begin the national dialogue on schedule on Sunday, adding that he has received instructions that the sessions will not be postponed.

He said, “The national dialogue administration has received the names of the participants, with the exception of those participating on behalf of the six (opposition) groups.” He clarified, “Our request of these (opposition) names was not in order to examine them for approval or rejection, but rather to send the participants their invitation and national dialogue literature in an official manner.” Abdul Rahman also confirmed that “We want the dialogue to be a platform that will allow Bahrain to reach a solution.” The National Dialogue spokesman did not hide his concern regarding what would happen if any opposition parties choose to boycott, confirming that this will have an impact regarding the ability to move forward and reach a consensus to end the political crisis that Bahrain is facing. He stressed that this can only be resolve through dialogue.