Manama, Asharq Al-Awsat—A senior US diplomat has been ordered to leave Bahrain after meeting with a leading Shi’a opposition group, the Bahraini government said on Monday.
US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Tom Malinowski met Sunday with senior members of the Al-Wefaq group, the country’s leading opposition movement, as part of a three-day visit during which he was also scheduled to meet with government officials.
Manama condemned the meeting and declared Malinowski “unwelcome,” saying he had intervened in the country’s domestic affairs by selectively holding meetings with some groups while ignoring others, and that he had “contravened diplomatic norms and flouted normal interstate relations,” state news agency BNA reported.
Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry, however, was quick to announce that relations between Manama and Washington remained intact.
“The government of Bahrain asserts that this should not in any way affect the two countries’ relationship of mutual interests,” a Foreign Ministry statement said.
US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Monday that Washington was surprised by the decision to expel Malinowski and said that Manama “is well aware that US government officials routinely meet with all officially recognized political societies.”
She also said the US State Department is “deeply concerned” about the step, which it regarded as “not consistent with the strong partnership between the United States and Bahrain.”
According to Psaki, Bahrain insisted that a Foreign Ministry representative be “present at all of Assistant Secretary Malinowski’s private meetings with individuals and groups representing a broad spectrum of Bahraini society, including those held at the US embassy.”
Malinowski was scheduled to meet members from Al-Wefaq and other opposition groups on Sunday, the Associated Press quoted Al-Wefaq spokesman Abdul Jalil Khalil as saying.
Heba Qudsi contributed additional reporting from Washington.