Washington (AFP) - Secretary of State John Kerry voiced deep concern to Bahrain for expelling an American envoy and making "unacceptable demands" that foreign ministry personnel attend his private meetings, the State Department said Monday.
Kerry also told Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa in a "frank" phone call Sunday that Washington was displeased that the Gulf state charged two leaders of Bahrain's largest Shiite opposition movement who met with the US official earlier this month, a senior State Department official said.
Bahrain ordered Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Tom Malinowski, out of the country last week, accusing him of meddling in the country's internal affairs.
Kerry "expressed our deep concern over the expulsion," the official said.
"Secretary Kerry reiterated our view that the government of Bahrain's demand to have a foreign ministry representative present at private meetings between US diplomats and Bahraini political figures is an unacceptable requirement that runs contrary to international diplomatic protocol."
Malinowski's visit had been coordinated in advance with Sunni-ruled Bahrain, which the State Department has said has been "well-aware" that US government officials routinely meet with various officially-recognized political movements.
But Washington said last week that Bahrain suddenly insisted, without advance warning and after Malinowski's visit began, on a ministry representative present at the envoy's private meetings, including those held at the US embassy.
Kerry "also made clear our concerns with the charges filed by the government of Bahrain against opposition figures for their participation in meetings with the assistant secretary," the officials said.
"The secretary underscored that our actions should be consistent with our strong bilateral relationship," and that both sides "recommit to the reconciliation process" in Bahrain.
Authorities charged cleric Ali Salman, the head of Al-Wefaq association, and his political assistant, ex-MP Khalil Marzooq, with contacting a representative of a foreign government in violation of Bahrain's law on political associations, prosecutors said.
The US Navy's Fifth Fleet, which is responsible for naval forces in the Gulf, is headquartered in Bahrain.