US Ambassador to Bahrain Thomas Krajeski has spoken out against street violence that he says threatens prospects for dialogue between Bahrain's government and opposition groups.
He condemned those involved in the violence and said it was vital to "re-establish stability and security", but he also urged leaders to engage in talks to end the political stalemate.
"We condemn violence and this is certainly not the way to dialogue," he told the GDN in an exclusive interview.
"Violence only increases the prospects of more violence."
However, the ambassador said he had noticed a decrease in attacks on security forces - suggesting this was an ideal window for a dialogue to take place.
"The recent level of violence - whether it's intense confrontation with Molotov cocktails, IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) or petrol bombs - seems to have subsided, giving an opening for a dialogue," he said.
Although the ambassador said he was concerned by the amount of tear gas being used to tackle violence, he added the policies of Interior Minister Lieutenant-General Shaikh Rashid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa had played a significant role in reducing civilian injuries.
"It has come to an absolute minimum - to a point that I have seen the only people hurt or injured are police officers on the streets and in some cases quite severely targeted by Molotov cocktails and spears (fired from spear guns)," he said.
"We spoke publicly and bluntly against these violent acts. Violence is violence and should not be tolerated."
The US appointed Mr Krajeski, a senior vice-president of the Washington-based National Defence University, as its new envoy to Bahrain last June.
He replaced Joseph Adam Ereli, but two separate online petitions against the incoming envoy attracted over 1,300 signatures.
Bahraini MPs last October issued a vote of no confidence in Mr Krajeski's appointment during a parliament session, accusing him of being part of an agenda against Bahrain and condemning "suspicious" meetings he held in the US with opposition members.
Responding to the criticism for the first time, he described some of the personal criticism he has faced as "out of line".
"I will say that personal criticism sometimes has been out of line and very inaccurate," he said.
Mr Krajeski added it was true that he met activists, but said that was only to understand the political landscape of Bahrain.
"This is true, I meet leaders from political parties frequently," he said.
"I met Shaikh Abdullatif Al Mahmood from the National Unity Assembly and Shaikh Ali Salman, secretary-general of Al Wefaq National Islamic Society.
"I also met frequently and openly officials in the government to discuss these issues, among others."
He argued it was his job as a diplomat to hold such meetings to fully comprehend what was happening in Bahrain.
"I think it's absolutely a legitimate activity for a US diplomat and actually a responsibility and requirement that American diplomats understand the full picture in Bahrain," he explained.
"I require my political officers out on the street meeting and talking to people.
"I want Washington to be fully informed so that when we make decisions regarding policies in Bahrain, we have a full picture and to do that we need to talk."
He also said he had never received complaints about such meetings from the government.
"In my eight months here, there has never been criticism from senior government officials towards me or this embassy for meeting opposition groups or others," he said.
"They may not be happy, but have not criticised.
"The red line we won't cross is (meeting) anyone who espouses violence and either commits or calls for the violent overthrow of this or any other government."
Meanwhile, Mr Krajeski said the government had made "considerable progress" in responding to events last year.
He added the US was keen to see faster progress towards engaging in a political dialogue that would pave the way for national reconciliation.
"It is important to re-establish stability and security in the country and reach a political solution," he said.
"Compromise, that is in the best interest of all Bahrainis."
He added the US had been encouraging all sides to come together for talks.
"We have discussed this point with leadership within the government, political societies, academics and the business community in searching for a way we might help in encouraging all sides to get together to talk," he said.
"I understand how difficult the process is as there are many demands made by parties, but again we are concerned about the slowness of the process."
He commended Bahrain for implementing recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry and His Majesty King Hamad for launching the probe into events last year.
However, he said there was still work to be done - although he acknowledged that such things cannot happen overnight.
"I think many Bahrainis including in the leadership are determined to make progress and to bring about national reconciliation to address issues of accountability and to establish a system of governance that is more open and fair," said the ambassador.
"We recognise this takes time."