Belfast Telegraph

Home News World

PM to meet protest representatives

Turkey's prime minister is to meet representatives of the protesters occupying Istanbul's Gezi Park, the state-run Anadolu news agency said.

The announcement came hours after Recep Tayyip Erdogan gave a "final warning" for the protesters to leave the park, the site of massive protests for the last two weeks.

Mr Erdogan will meet eight artists and two representatives from Taksim Solidarity, a group which has been co-ordinating much of the Gezi sit-in, Anadolu said. It will be the first time that Mr Erdogan has met a group directly involved in the occupation.

The protest in Istanbul has sparked wide demonstrations across Turkey that have become the biggest challenge yet to Mr Erdogan's 10-year rule. Earlier, Mr Erdogan told local party leaders in the capital, Ankara: "We have arrived at the end of our patience."

"I am giving you my final warning," he said, directing his comments towards the protesters. He even urged parents with children at the park to convince them to pack up and go home.

Just when a possible final police raid on the park would take place was a topic of wide speculation. Mr Erdogan offered no timetable for it and the Interior Ministry declined immediate comment on the subject.

The governor of Istanbul insisted no police raid was yet planned, although he did not rule one out and said the public would be informed ahead of time if one was imminent. But Hulya Avsar, a prominent actress who met Mr Erdogan, said he wanted to end the stand-off soon.

"'In case they don't withdraw in 24 hours, there will be some sort of intervention,'" she quoted the prime minister as saying. "At that point, I said, 'I will leave' - because there was nothing to talk about."

Inside the park, many scoffed at the prime minister's tactics and language, insisting that Mr Erdogan was turning a deaf ear to the roughly half of Turks who did not vote for him when he was re-elected in 2011.

Gezi Park's sit-in started small, with mainly environmental activists trying to prevent a development project that would cut down its trees to put up a replica of an Ottoman barracks. Then police cracked down on the protesters on May 31, spawning wide outrage. Each day saw more tents pitched on the park's grassy verges, more banners erected, more donations of food and blankets for the protesters.


From Belfast Telegraph