Bahrain rebuffs France's call for dialogue with opposition groups
Bahrain has rebuffed France after President Emmanuel Macron urged the Gulf state to re-establish political dialogue with opposition groups.
After meeting with King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa in Paris, Macron "encouraged the Bahraini authorities to continue their efforts to re-establish a political dialogue that includes all components of Bahraini society", a presidential statement said on Tuesday.
“The guarantee of rights was inseparable from stability," Macron said during the meeting.
Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa said on Wednesday that no such conversation took place, posting on Twitter that Macron "did not raise any subject related to a political dialogue".
He said Macron had in fact praised King Hamad's policies of "reform and openness".
A French presidential source said in response that contacts between French and Bahraini authorities on Wednesday had covered various subjects including "inclusive political dialogue," Reuters reported.
Bahrain, a Shia-majority country located between regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran, has been ruled for more than two centuries by the al-Khalifa dynasty.
Authorities have jailed dozens of high-profile activists and disbanded both religious and secular opposition groups since protests demanding political change erupted in 2011.
They have stripped hundreds of those convicted of their citizenship, leaving many stateless.
In recent high-profile trials, Bahrain's prominent rights defender Nabeel Rajab in December lost his final appeal against a five-year jail term for writing tweets deemed offensive to the state.
In January, Bahrain's supreme court upheld a life term against Sheikh Ali Salman, the head of the main Shia opposition group Al-Wefaq, for allegedly spying for rival Qatar.
Agencies contributed to this report.