Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan to meet leaders of park protest

Monday 10 June 2013 22.32
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Protesters have occupied Istanbul's main Taksim Square for more than a week and have held hundreds of demonstrations in dozens of cities across the country
Protesters have occupied Istanbul's main Taksim Square for more than a week and have held hundreds of demonstrations in dozens of cities across the country
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has demanded an end to the protests
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has demanded an end to the protests

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan is to meet leaders of the Gezi Park platform, the group whose protests against the destruction of an Istanbul park have spiralled into a wave of anti-government protests that have rocked Turkey.

"They asked to meet the prime minister and he agreed to meet with the organisers," Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc told reporters.

He said that the aim would be to try to halt the protests.

Earlier, Turkey's opposition leader called on Mr Erdogan to stop escalating tension and dragging the country "into the fire".

Mr Erdogan headed a Cabinet meeting to discuss the protests, which are the first serious challenge to his ten-year rule.

The prime minister has made a series of fiery speeches to thousands of his supporters, saying the government's patience was running thin.

He has demanded an end to the protests and threatened to hold those who do not respect his government to account.

Mr Erdogan has also called major pro-government rallies in Ankara and Istanbul next weekend, raising the stakes for those opposing him in the streets and main squares in Turkish cities.

Hurriyet newspaper this morning quoted Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the head of the pro-secular Republican People's Party, as calling on Mr Erdogan to calm tension.

"Why is the prime minister being so stubborn toward his people? He should not do it," Mr Kilicdaroglu said in comments published in Hurriyet.

"We are witnessing a prime minister who is trying to hold on to power by creating tensions."

"A policy that feeds on tension will drag society into the fire."

Crowds swelled into tens of thousands in Istanbul's Taksim Square and main city centres in Ankara and Izmir as Mr Erdogan delivered his speeches.

Police broke up the protest near government buildings in Ankara with tear gas and water cannon.

At least 12 people were detained, the Turkish Human Rights Foundation said.

Police also detained 13 people in the city of Adana for allegedly "inciting people into rioting" through social media posts, the foundation said.

They were being questioned by a court, which would decide whether to charge or release them.

A further 25 protesters were detained in Izmir for a series of Twitter posts last week. They were later released.

The protests were sparked on 31 May by a violent police crackdown on a sit-in at a park on Taksim to prevent a redevelopment project that would replace the green space with a replica Ottoman Barracks.

They have since spread to 78 cities across the country.

Protesters are angered by what they say are Mr Erdogan's growing autocratic leadership and his attempts to impose religious and conservative views on their lifestyles.

Mr Erdogan, a devout Muslim, says he is committed to Turkey's secular laws and rejects charges of autocracy.

He has denied raising tension and insisted the protests were a ploy to undermine a government that was elected with 50% support in elections held in 2011.

Protesters today continued to occupy Gezi Park in Taksim Square, where dozens of tents were erected.

Police in Ankara again removed tents from a small park where protesters have gathered in a show of support to the protesters in Gezi.

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