Erdogan in ‘final’ protest warning

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has issued a “final warning” to protesters to leave Gezi Park in central Istanbul.

SOURCE

 

“Our patience is at an end. I am making my warning for the last time,” he said.

 

Clashes between police and protesters in the park and adjoining Taksim Square have continued for nearly two weeks.

 

Activists have said they will not leave until the government abandons plans to redevelop the park. Mr Erdogan’s party has proposed a referendum on the issue.

 

Such a vote would not be legally binding but Mr Erdogan implied he would honour its outcome.

 

“I say to the mothers and fathers, please take your children in hand and bring them out,” Mr Erdogan declared.

 

“We cannot wait any more because Gezi Park does not belong to occupying forces but to the people.”

 

His speech at a meeting of his ruling AK Party (AKP) in the capital, Ankara, received a standing ovation.

‘Extremists’

Gezi Park is a rare patch of green in Turkey’s biggest city, and has been the focus of public anger.

 

Plans to redevelop it into a shopping centre were the initial spark for the protests.

 

The prime minister has previously branded the protesters there “extremists” and “looters”.

 

The suggestion of a public vote on the park’s future is unlikely to appease many of the protesters still encamped there.

 

“There is already a court decision which orders the suspension of work in Gezi Park,” said Tayfun Kahraman from Taksim Solidarity, one of the environmentalist groups fighting to save the area.

 

It was not even legal to consider a referendum on such an issue, since such votes could only be held on constitutional matters, he added.

 

“Are they going to ask us whether we approve of chopping down trees? What would the result change anyway?” 22-year-old student Arzu told AFP news agency.

Tear gas

It is not yet clear what failing to heed Prime Minister Erdogan’s “final” warning would mean for the protesters.

 

Some of those camped in the park have been waiting for news from city governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu, who has been assuring them for several days that police will not intervene, while urging them to leave so that “police can tackle marginal groups”.

 

Several riot vehicles are still on standby in Taksim – a sign that police have no intention of abandoning the square they stormed on Tuesday.

 

Protesters fought back then, using stones and Molotov cocktails in reply to the police’s tear gas and water cannons.

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