Parliament Speaker Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Dhahrani opened the forum by hailing the gathering as “a historic opportunity for all of us to overcome this critical stage of the nation’s history through dialogue”.
He told the session that the dialogue would have “no preconditions and no ceiling” on the demands that could be raised by delegates. The aim was to draw up “common principles for the re-launch of the political reform process”.
The main opposition party Al Wefaq joined the dialogue after a protracted debate on whether to take part that was resolved only late on Friday.
Senior Al Wefaq official Khalil Al Marzooq said the group’s 5 member delegation would maintain its demand for the Prime Minister to be drawn in the future from the bloc in parliament, Al Wasat newspaper reported. “We do not intend to sabotage the dialogue but we do intend to bring to it the demands of the people,” Marzooq was quoted as saying.
The US welcomed the national dialogue and praised Al Wefaq’s decision to join in.
The talks are to last until end of July, with delegates meeting 3 times a week. Al Wefaq’s 3 delegates who attended Saturday’s session, were not optimistic the dialogue will lead to meaningful reforms.
“It started as a monologue… The agenda has been previously set by the government in order to exclude talks about critical issues, such as moving along with a process that will reshape the country into a constitutional monarchy”, said one of the three, Bushra Al Hindi.
In a televised speech on the eve of the talks, H.M. King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa said: “It will be a true dialogue in every respect and no section of Bahrain’s wide and diverse society will be ignored.”
Source: Khaleej Times; Al Wasat