Bahrain shuns Kuwait’s mediation offer

Bahrain’s foreign minister says it is “completely untrue” that Kuwait could mediate to resolve its political crisis.

Bahrain protests
The deadly crackdown against pro-democracy protesters has stunned Bahrain’s majority Shias and angered Iran [AFP]

Bahrain’s Foreign Minister has denied reports that Kuwait would mediate to resolve Bahrain’s political crisis.

Wefaq, the island’s leading Shia opposition group, said on Sunday it would accept an offer by Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, Kuwait’s Emir, to mediate between Bahrain’s ruling Sunni Muslim al-Khalifa family and the Shia opposition groups.

The Gulf Cooperation Council, a regional political and economic bloc made up of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, had welcomed the mediation move on Sunday.

The oppositon party is hoping to re-open a dialogue with the government in an effort to end the political crisis in Bahrain.

A British newspaper report says the opposition is no longer insisting on certain conditions for talks, including the sacking of the cabinet, or a new assembly to rewrite the constitution.

Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed bin Mohammed al-Khalifa, Bahrain minister of foreign affairs said on his Twitter page there were no plans for a Kuwaiti-led dialogue.

“Any talk about Kuwaiti mediation in Bahrain is completely untrue, there were previous efforts that were not answered, but these were ended by the act of National Safety (martial law).”

Jasim Husain, Wefaq member, said Ali al-Matrook, a Kuwaiti Shia businessman, was one of the mediators.

Husain told Al Jazeera, “There is so much at stake now, the country’s economy, the reputation, credit rating, safety and security [of people], there is no point in missing out on this rising opportunity from Kuwait [of mediation].

“The opposition has always said that they need to make the environment conducive for talks – there are no conditions, we just have to agree on the agenda.”

More than 60 per cent of Bahrain’s population is Shia and most are campaigning for a constitutional monarchy.

But calls by hardliners for the overthrow of the monarchy have alarmed Sunnis, who fear that unrest serves Iran, the non-Arab Shia power just across Gulf waters.

Earlier this month, Bahrain’s rulers imposed martial law in the tiny Gulf Arab state.

They also called in troops from Gulf neighbours, including Saudi Arabia, to quell weeks of unrest during pro-democracy demonstrations by mostly Shia protesters which stalled talks proposed by Bahrain’s crown prince.

The move stunned the Shia majority and angered Iran.

Seven civilians and four police died in the crackdown on protesters earlier in March by Bahrain’s forces.

Al-Seyassah, a Kuwait daily, said on Sunday that a Wefaq delegation was to meet Kuwaiti politicians including Jassem al-Kharafi, parliament speaker, citing unnamed political sources.

Kuwait, which has a Shia minority of its own, has sent navy vessels to Bahrain under a Gulf security pact to patrol its northern coastline.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies