Is the Foreign Office facing both ways over the troubles in Bahrain?
The Arab kingdom of Bahrain has not lacked British visitors this month. The Foreign Office minister, Alistair Burt is just back, members of the Commons Foreign Affairs committee have just arrived, and the former Defence Secretary Liam Fox will be there over the Easter weekend. His office say that he is there to discuss defence matters, including the basing of the British fleet off Bahrain, with the Foreign Office’s support.
At this busy time, the British Ambassador, Iain Lindsay, has given an interview to Bahrain’s main newspaper, the Gulf Daily News, in which he labelled some of the protesters as ‘terrorists, full stop’, suggested that they were taking instructions from Iran, and attacked a recent report on Bahrain by Human Rights Watch “as deeply unhelpful, condescending and patronising.” He also remarked that “British companies should be able to pick up at least £1bn worth of business here over the next five to 10 years,” a prospect which may or may not colour his attitude to civil rights in the kingdom.
These remarks, if they have been accurately reported, sit oddly alongside what Alistair Burt told MPs upon his return - “The UK remains concerned about the situation in Bahrain… Progress is being made in Bahrain, albeit slowly… but more needs to be done.”
It is almost as if the Foreign Office is saying one thing at home, and another over there.
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