Berlin has urged the Turkish government to refrain from heavy-handedness in its treatment of protesters. A senior EU official echoed the comments but said Brussels remained committed to Turkey’s accession to the bloc.
Chancellor Angela Merkel made her appeal for Ankara to reject the use of violence against demonstrators after a meeting with Tunisian Prime Minister Ali Larayedh on Friday.
"We are of the opinion that demonstrations are part of having a state governed by the rule of law and that demonstrators must be treated according to the rule of law," she said. "I hope that Turkey does this."
The protests in Turkey began a week ago when police fired tear gas and used water cannon to disperse protesters opposed to the redevelopment of a park in Istanbul. The demonstrations turned into a general wave of unrest spread across the country. Protesters accuse Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his government of jeopardizing Turkey's secular values by gradually imposing authoritarian Islamic rule.
The chancellor pointed out that the Turkish government had acknowledged there were problems.
"I am confident that these problems are now going to be discussed with the youth of the country and that no violence will be used against the demonstrators," she said.
Larayedh, who was in Berlin on an official visit and who met Erdogan earlier in the week, said the Turkish premier had assured him that he rejected violence against demonstrators.
Brussels also raised the issue of excessive force against the Turkish demonstrators on Friday, claiming it "has no place" in a democracy.
"Peaceful demonstrations constitute a legitimate way for these groups to express their views in a democratic society. Excessive use of force by police against these demonstrations has no place in such a democracy," said European Union Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule.
Assurance over accession
At a conference in Istanbul that was attended by Erdogan, Fule said authorities responsible for heavy-handed policing should be held to account. However, Fule said that Brussels remained committed to Turkey's accession to the EU.
"Let me... call on Turkey not to give up on its values of freedom and fundamental rights. And let me assure you that we, on our side, have no intention to give up on Turkey´s EU accession," Fule said.
There were fresh clashes between police and protesters on Friday, with thousands of demonstrators gathering in the streets around Istanbul's Taksim Square, which has served as the geographic focal point of their dissatisfaction.
Erdogan on Friday urged an end to the protests, in a speech to supporters. He claimed that the demonstrators had "lost their democratic credential and turned to vandalism" but told a crowd, which had gathered at an Istanbul airport to welcome him back from a visit to North Africa, to be calm and "go home."
Three people, two protesters and a policeman, have died amid the unrest over the past week, with thousands of others wounded.
rc/dr (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)