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Erdogan: Protest ‘will be over in 24 hours’ – Published time: June 12, 2013 19:57

5 min read

 

 

The Turkish Prime Minister says protests at Taksim Square and Gezi Park ‘will be over in 24 hours.’ This comes hours after Tayyip Erdogan met a group of activists, in an attempt to start dialog, and vowed to put an end to the gatherings.

“I have given orders to the interior minister,” Erdogan  said. “This will be over in 24 hours.”  Erdogan said  the protests were hurting Turkey’s image and economy.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s Ruling Justice and Development Party (AK  Party) Deputy Chairman Huseyin Celik has said a referendum might  be held to decide whether to build replicas of Ottoman-era  barracks in Gezi Park or leave it as it is.

Earlier on Wednesday the Turkish Prime Minister spoke to a group  of 11 people as part of the government’s attempt to listen to the  demands of the demonstrators. The participants included artists,  academics and students, as well as the Interior Minister,  Environment and Urban Minister, Tourism and Culture Minister and  the vice chair of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

As the PM spoke, another group of protesters prepared to assemble  on Taksim Square, just a day after thousands of like-minded  people were driven back in a night of violence, complete with  tear gas and water cannon. The police had invaded the square  twice on Tuesday.

In the 12 days of anti-government anger, three protesters and one  policeman have lost their lives, prompting Turkey’s Human Rights  Foundation to open an investigation into excessive use of force  by the police. The number of injured stands above 5,000.

Elements within the protest camp appeared not to waiver in the  face of Erdogan’s warnings, with the Taksim Solidarity Group – an  umbrella unit representing the protestors – urging the crowds to  return to the square at 7PM. The group reiterated its earlier  demands, which included for the government to cancel plans for  destroying Gezi Park, just meters away from Taksim Square; for  police chiefs in cities with a particularly high rate of violence  against protesters to be sacked; and for the release of those  that have been detained over the 12 days.

The group of 11 people who spoke to Teyyip Erdogan included  celebrity activists too – among them a noted actress and a  singer. But the Taksim Solidarity Group has said the celebrity  connection was useless as long as police violence continued.

This handout picture released by the Turkish Prime Minister's Office shows the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Back L) speaking during a meeting with the Taksim Solidarity Platform, which includes respresentatives of Gezi park protesters, on June 12, 2013, during a meeting in Ankara (AFP Photo)This handout picture released by the Turkish Prime Minister’s Office shows the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Back L) speaking during a meeting with the Taksim Solidarity Platform, which includes respresentatives of Gezi park protesters, on June 12, 2013, during a meeting in Ankara (AFP Photo)

 

The country’s President, Abdullah Gul, who has been known for  being more lenient than the prime minister in the midst of the  protesting, has tried to unite the bickering sides, urging them  to open a dialog free of violence, and for the more extreme  elements in the protest to stop their anti-social behavior.

He told reporters: “I am hopeful that we will surmount this  through democratic maturity… If they have objections, we need to  hear them, enter into a dialog. It is our duty to lend them an  ear… Those who employ violence are something different and we  have to distinguish them.”

The government’s actions during the protest have aroused  criticism from European leaders – among them German Foreign  Minister Guido Westerwelle, who spoke of the Taksim chaos seen in  the pictures as “disturbing”. He said that “We expect  Prime Minister Erdogan to de-escalate the situation, in the  spirit of European values, and to seek a constructive exchange  and peaceful dialogue.”

High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security  Policy for the European Union, Catherine Ashton, also opposed the  way in which the situation was handled, encouraging an  investigation into police action and criticizing the government’s  social media blockade.

Lady Ashton told reporters that “Democratically elected  governments – even the most successful of them, which have  enjoyed three election victories and have half the population’s  support – still need to take account of the needs and  expectations of those who don’t feel represented… And peaceful  demonstrations are a legitimate way for such groups to express  their views.”

People walk at Istanbul Taksim square on June 12, 2013 after a large clean-up operation removed all evidence of the unrest, clearing the square of stray tear gas canisters, anti-Erdogan banners and makeshift barricades (AFP Photo / Gurcan Ozturk)People walk at Istanbul Taksim square on June 12, 2013 after a large clean-up operation removed all evidence of the unrest, clearing the square of stray tear gas canisters, anti-Erdogan banners and makeshift barricades (AFP Photo / Gurcan Ozturk)

 

RT spoke to a blogger and protester who bore witness to the  events of the last 12 days. Arzu Geybulla is very skeptical of  any compromises or sudden changes expected over the next day,  given the Turkish PM’s prior promises of bringing the violence to  an end.

“If it [the government] doesn’t back down, I think it will all  turn more violent than before. One of the compromises that came  out of today’s meeting was that they’re going to hold a  referendum over the future of Gezi park – which sounds very  unrealistic and completely bizarre in the context of everything  that’ been happening.  The problem with the prime minster  and his ruling party is that they don’t back down – they  should’ve backed down the first few days and they could’ve  resolved this conflict, and they haven’t. I’m really afraid that  no compromises are going to be on the table anytime soon.”

In light of this, Geybulla added that the outcome of events in  the next 24 hours will depend solely on police action.

A pianist plays piano during an anti government demonstration in Taksim square on June 12, 2013, one day after heavy clashes with police (AFP Photo / Ozan Kose)A pianist plays piano during an anti government demonstration in Taksim square on June 12, 2013, one day after heavy clashes with police (AFP Photo / Ozan Kose)

 

Anti-goverment protestors unfurl the Turkish national flag in Taksim Gezi Park on June 13, 2013 in Istanbul after a large clean-up operation removed all evidence of unrest, the square cleared of of stray tear gas cannisters, anti-Erdogan banners and makeshift barricades (AFP Photo / Ozan Kose)Anti-goverment protestors unfurl the Turkish national flag in Taksim Gezi Park on June 13, 2013 in Istanbul after a large clean-up operation removed all evidence of unrest, the square cleared of of stray tear gas cannisters, anti-Erdogan banners and makeshift barricades (AFP Photo / Ozan Kose)

 

Demonstrators form a human chain in front of security forces at Taksim square in central Istanbul late June 12, 2013 (Reuters / Murad Sezer)Demonstrators form a human chain in front of security forces at Taksim square in central Istanbul late June 12, 2013 (Reuters / Murad Sezer)

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