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Bahrain denies French calls for dialogue with opposition

May 2, 2019 at 3:01 am

French President Emmanuel Macron (L) welcomes Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Bin Salman Al Khalifa in Paris, France. on 30 April 2019 [Chesnot/Getty Images]

Bahrain yesterday denied recent statements on alleged calls by the French President Emmanuel Macron to the Gulf state’s king, Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa, to resume a political dialogue with the local opposition groups.

Al-Khalifa arrived in the French capital of Paris on Monday on a visit to discuss bilateral ties with his French counterpart.

A statement issued by the French presidency on Tuesday reported that Macron had urged the Bahraini authorities “to continue their efforts to re-establish a political dialogue that includes all components of Bahraini society.”

The Bahraini foreign minister, Khalid Bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, said on Twitter that the meeting held between Macron and Al-Khalifa “did not raise any subject related to a political dialogue,” adding that the French statement “was issued before the two leaders’ meeting.”

He pointed out that the kingdom had “legislative institutions through which a political dialogue continuously takes place,” stressing that Bahraini government was respecting “freedom of expression.”

International rights organisations, including Human Rights Watch, have called on Macron to address the human rights agenda during his meeting with Al-Khalifa. The visit was also reported to have witnessed the signing of 12 multi-sectoral agreements worth $2 billion between the two countries.

Bahrain’s ruling Sunni Al-Khalifa family has kept a lid on dissent since the Shi’ite opposition staged a failed uprising in 2011. The state has ruled out any dialogue after reconciliation talks collapsed in 2014 and accused the opposition of working with the kingdom’s arch enemy Iran.

READ: Saudi Arabia supports ‘respectful ties between Bahrain and Iraq’

Since the 2011 protests – quashed with the help of Saudi forces – Bahrain has prosecuted hundreds of activists in mass trials and banned the main opposition groups. Most of the country’s leading opposition figures and rights activists are imprisoned or have fled abroad. The government denies using repressive methods against the opposition and says it is protecting national security.