Bahrain’s opposition has agreed to resume talks with the government in a bid to resolve the country’s political crisis.
The opposition accepted an offer from Sheikh Khalid bin Ali al-Khalifa, member of the National Commission, following a directive from King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa to hold fresh talks.
The move is part of the government’s bids to boost the country’s economy. Bahrain has suffered from political unrest since 14 February 2011, when protests were suppressed violently by government security forces.
Opposition groups rejected an initial offer of talks from the government for talks in June 2011, claiming that King Hamad had selected participants for the proposed discussions.
Khalil al-Marzouq, a senior member of Bahrain’s main opposition group Wefaq, told international media that five opposition groups had met in the Bahraini capital of Manama to discuss the invitation for talks.
Marzouq said that the opposition movement was “ready to partner with the ruling family and the community to find solutions”.
However, Marzouq stated that the opposition had certain prerequisites that must be met for talks to proceed. “We need to be assured that the process is credible, we need detail about how agreement will be reached, where it will go and how the people will ratify it.”
The opposition’s agreement to enter talks will be well received by Bahrain’s ruling circle, after previous efforts for reconciliatory talks were rebuffed. In March last year, King Hamad said that the government was still open to a dialogue with opposition groups, following a renewed wave of anti-government protests that have left at least two people dead.
However, despite initial optimism of talks, the opposition did not agree to enter discussions and tensions continued to escalate. In October 2012, Bahrain’s Interior Minister General Sheikh Rashid bin Abdullah al-Khalifa announced that the government was banning political rallies. He said the decision would be a temporary step to restore security after an opposition march left two policemen dead despite permission to protest being denied by the authorities.
At least 35 people, including five police officers, were killed during the initial protests in February and March 2011. Human rights groups claim, that since then, another 45 people have been killed, a claim which the government rejects.