Germany has called for dialogue between the Turkish government and protesters, who continue to voice their discontent. The Turkish prime minister has downplayed the protests at the start of a North African tour.
As protests in Turkey entered their fourth day on Monday, the spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Merkel urged the government to rein in its crackdown on the protest so a dialogue could take place.
"The time for de-escalation and dialogue is now," Merkel said according to her spokesman, Steffen Seibert. "It is important in the current tense situation that all parties exhibit prudence. The right of citizens to freedom of expression and assembly is a clear fundamental right in a democracy."
This comes as police in the Turkish capital, Ankara, used tear gas to disperse protests there. In Istanbul, demonstrators have barricaded streets in the Taksim neighborhood of Istanbul, but there are fewer people gathered there than there were over the weekend and the police are keeping their distance.
Television images from Turkish media showed fire fighters dispatched in the early hours on Monday morning local time battling a fire started by protesters at offices of the AK Party (Justice and Development Party) in the western port city of Izmir.
'Getting the message'
Speaking to reporters as he left Turkey for a four-day tour of North Africa, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the protests had been organized by "extremist elements."
The premier responded in an angry tone to one journalist's question of whether the government had understood the message the protesters were trying to deliver: "What is the message? I want to hear it from you."
Erdogan called on his people to "be calm, relax," and added that "all this will be overcome."
Turkish President Abdullah Gul said Monday that he had gotten the "necessary message" from the protests.
Rights groups such as Amnesty International have criticized the Turkish government's crackdown on the protesters as too harsh. The organization was particularly critical of the use of tear gas by police, which Amnesty describes as excessive.
In a statement on its website, Amnesty said it had received reports of a number of occasions where "police were seen deliberately targeting individual protesters with tear gas canisters. A number of protesters are thought to have lost their sight as a result of the use of tear gas at close range."
Human Rights Watch's senior Turkey researcher, Emma Sinclair-Webb, said in a statement on that organization's website that "the government's failure to respect the right to protest and to speak out is fueling discontent among people in Turkey."
mz/rc (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)