19 MAR 2011
EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - An escalation in the government crack-down on pro-democracy protesters in Bahrain and the incursion of 1000 Saudi troops on the island, has spooked European capitals, which had not expected the tiny but geostrategically important state to be destabilised in the wake of the ongoing regional uprisings.
The EU is treating the explosive situation gingerly, with officials saying privately that the bloc is not about to call for the leader, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, to step down as they did in Egypt and have done in Libya.
After security forces from the country, a long a close ally of Nato and home to the US Fifth Fleet, began using live ammunition against peaceful protestors and occupied a hospital in the capital, blocking access to medical help and targetting doctors, EU foreign policy chief issued a statement calling for dialogue with the authorities.
"There is no alternative to dialogue," she said on Thursday following a telephone conversation with the Bahraini foreign minister. "The government must do all it can to initiate a political process with concrete steps that answers the legitimate demands and aspirations of the Bahrainis."
"This is the only way forward to restore lasting stability and security."
An estimated 20 individuals have been killed since the start of protests in February, with six killed in the last 24 hours and a total of 1000 wounded.
On Monday, some 1000 Saudi Arabian troops with 150 armoured vehicles and accompanied by 500 police from the United Arab Emirates entered.
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