PM discusses opportunities for British businesses in the Gulf state, but also raises issue of human rights violation
David Cameron held a low-key meeting in Downing Street with the King of Bahrain on Thursday, prompting concerns among human rights groups.
The prime minister discussed opportunities for British businesses in the Gulf state during the meeting, his third with the king, that was not given the usual prominence by No 10 officials.
But the prime minister also raised human rights when he pressed the king to implement in full the recommendations of a commission of inquiry that was set up after the violence in Bahrain in 2011. At least 40 people died in clashes when the government cracked down on protests linked to the Arab Spring.
The arrival of King Hamad al-Khalifa, who was given red carpet treatment in Downing Street, was filmed in the usual way. But there were no questions or statements inside No 10 by the two leaders.
Downing Street said the prime minister made clear Britain expects Bahrain to implement in full the inquiry report, which concluded that police had used excessive force. The Bahraini government said it would implement the recommendations in full.
Mohammed al-Tajir, president of the Bahrain Rehabilitation and Anti-Violence Organisation, told the BBC: “Britain is a strong ally of Bahrain and these kind of visits are normal. What is abnormal is to continue these kind of visits without a change in the promises given by the king himself and the Bahraini government to change the miserable situation in Bahrain.”
Downing Street’s low-key approach contrasted with the lengths it went to on Wednesday to publicise phone calls with Barack Obama and François Hollande.
The Bahrain News Agency quoted foreign minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifa as saying the talks “covered bilateral relations and means of preserving stability and security in the region” and “joint concern on the bloodshed of innocent people and its repercussions”.