Erdogan: 'no tolerance'
The Turkish leader told a meeting of members of parliament from his AK Party in Ankara on Tuesday that his patience had run out with demonstrators who have been protesting against him and his government for nearly two weeks.
"To those who ... are at Taksim [Square] and elsewhere taking part in the demonstrations with sincere feelings: I call on you to leave those places and to end these incidents and I send you my love. But for those who want to continue with the incidents I say: 'It's over.' As of now we have no tolerance for them," Erdogan said.
"Not only will we end the actions, we will be at the necks of the provocateurs and terrorists and no one will get away with it," the prime minister added.
As the prime minister spoke, police outfitted in riot gear moved into Istanbul's Taksim Square, which has been at the center of the anti-government protests. Police used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon to disperse the protesters, with bulldozers moving in to demolish makeshift barricades that had been set up by the demonstrators. Some of the protesters, though, didn't give up without a fight, leading to several hours of clashes with police.
In his speech to his party's lawmakers, Erdogan also defended the decision to use force against the demonstrators.
"Were we supposed to kneel before them and say please remove your pieces of rags? They can call me harsh, but this Tayyip Erdogan won't change," he said.
Erdogan's words were in sharp contrast to what his government had said just a day earlier. On Monday his deputy, Bulent Arinc, had said the prime minister was open to dialogue with the protesters and was planning to meet with some of their representatives on Wednesday.
The unrest, which began with a demonstration against plans to redevelop a park in Taksim Square 12 days ago, quickly developed into protests against the prime minister and what many see as his authoritarian ways. The demonstrations have since spread to Ankara, the capital, and dozens of other cities across Turkey.
Turkey's allies uneasy
Erdogan's efforts to put down the protests have been met with criticism from Turkey's allies.
"It causes me great concern when I see the use of water cannon," the German government's human rights commissioner, Markus Löning told the private news broadcaster NTV on Tuesday. He also reminded Ankara of its commitments to the rights of freedom of speech and to assemble freely.
"We call on the Turkish government to respect the rights of its citizens," Löning said.
The United States, another close ally of Turkey, voiced its concerns about previous reports of violence.
"We continue to have serious concerns about the reports of excessive use of force by police and large numbers of injuries and damage to property, and welcome calls for these events to be investigated," White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters on Monday.
"We also continue to urge all parties to refrain from provoking violence.
pfd/dr (AP, dpa)