Turkish Premier gives protesters final warning

The EU condemned the “disproportionate” use of force on the protesters.

Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Erdogan, on Thursday gave demonstrators occupying a park in central Istanbul a final warning to leave.

“Our patience is at an end,” he said in Ankara. “I am warning you for the last time.”

Parents should remove their children from the protest camp so that Police could proceed against “illegal organisations,” Mr. Erdogan said, after announcing earlier that the police would no longer tolerate the camp in Taksim Square’s Gezi Park.

Protests began two weeks ago against a building project planned for the park site. A police crackdown prompted demonstrations in other cities and widespread criticism of Mr. Erdogan, whom demonstrators accused of seeking to impose Islamic values on a secular state and exercising an authoritarian style of leadership.

Mr. Erdogan’s ultimatum was delivered a day after he met with a group of artists, scientists and publicists in Ankara over the development planned for Gezi Park.

After the meeting, a spokesman for Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) said the government could

consider a referendum on the project.

A replica of an Ottoman-era military barracks is planned, and it is to house apartments, a shopping mall and a museum.

The referendum on whether to go ahead with the development or preserve the park could be decided by voters in Istanbul or residents living near Gezi Park, the spokesman said, but demonstrators on Thursday reacted coolly to the idea.

Such a vote would not resolve the dispute over fundamental human rights and personal freedoms in Turkey, they said.

Instead, they argued, it would be used to avoid and suppress such a discussion.

“It is a manoeuvre to manipulate the people,” a 21-year-old Sociology student at the protest camp said.

Other demonstrators called the proposal “democracy only as show” and said Erdogan would mobilise the apparatus of his ruling AKP for the vote.

“A referendum would have been a good idea at the beginning of the protests,” a 22-year-old protester said.

“That would have been direct democracy, but now, it is just a tactical ploy. … It would be a vote only for or against Erdogan.”

Numerous government officials have stressed that the protesters’ occupation of the park and square could not continue.

While the situation was calm on Thursday, police were out in force, and at least eight water cannon were moved onto the square, witnesses said.

Police use of tear gas, water cannon and batons on protesters has brought international criticism. More protests against Erdogan were held overnight on Taksim Square, but police did not move in.

Daily demonstrations and near-daily police operations against them have occurred in Ankara, where police overnight used smoke grenades to disperse the protesters.

The protests across Turkey had resulted in the death of three protesters and a police officer. Thousands had been injured.

In Strasbourg, France, the EU Parliament approved a non-binding resolution that condemned the “disproportionate” use of force against protesters and deplored “the unwillingness of the Turkish government and Erdogan to take steps toward reconciliation”.

Mr. Erdogan said he did not recognise any decision the EU Parliament made about Turkey which is not an EU member.

He asked: “Who are you (the EU) to make a decision about Turkey?”

(dpa/NAN)


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