Israel boycott office ’must be reopened’

Gulfnews | November 02, 2007

Israel boycott office ’must be reopened’

By Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief

Manama: A parliamentarian committee has sidestepped requests by the foreign minister to uphold international agreements and called for the reopening of the Israel boycott office.

"Now that the committee has agreed on reopening the office, we request the foreign ministry to support the decisions by the representatives of the people and to put an end to all forms of contact between Bahrain and the Zionist entity," Adel Al Mouawda, the chairman of the foreign affairs, defence and national security committee in the lower house, said yesterday.

"The authorities should also allow the reopening of the Israel boycott office and ban any form of communication with the Zionist entity," he said in a statement to the press following a meeting with Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmad Al Khalifa.

The minister has been facing a barrage of criticism after he said that he met his Israeli counterpart Tzipi Livni last month on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

Although he repeatedly stressed that the meeting was not to establish diplomatic relations with Israel and that Bahrain was acting with the support of the Palestinian authorities to explore peace possibilities within the Arab peace initiative, several political societies, activists and MPs have condemned the encounter and called for the reestablishment of the boycott office.

Manama in 2005 shut down the office as part of the requirements by the US Congress before it ratified a free trade agreement with Bahrain, the first of its kind with a Gulf country.

"The meeting was not a unilateral move initiated by Bahrain, but part of a collective effort exerted by an Arab delegation to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinians and to discuss the status of the wall dividing Palestinian lands," Shaikh Khalid said.

"The closing of the boycott office was necessary in order to sign the FTA and to benefit from its numerous advantages. Bahrainis do not really need a boycott office," he said.

A statement last month by the new US ambassador to Bahrain claiming that boycott policies were outdated drew sarcasm from MPs who pointed out to Washington’s boycott of Libya, Cuba, Venezuela, Syria, Sudan, Iran and North Korea.

source: Gulfnews