Turkish PM Erdogan meets with Taksim protesters | News | DW | 14.06.2013
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Turkish PM Erdogan meets with Taksim protesters

The Turkish premier has begun meeting with protesters in an attempt to end demonstrations across the country. The talks came soon after the premier gave his "last warning" for protesters to end a sit-in in Gezi Park.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan held talks in the early hours of Friday morning with protesters in the capital city, Ankara. The delegation included members of the group, Taksim Solidarity.

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Erdogan issues ultimatum to protesters

Meanwhile, the governor of Istanbul, Huseyin Avni Mutlu, invited protesters to meet with him in a cafe near Taksim Square overnight on Thursday, vowing to talk "until the morning if necessary."

"I hope this meeting will be a message to youngsters from different ages in Gezi Park…we are trying to end this issue without [police] having to intervene," Mutlu told reporters on his way to the meeting point.

Demonstrations continued in both cities overnight on Thursday. In Istanbul, thousands gathered on Taksim Square, reportedly chanting and dancing in peaceful protest, as a concert pianist performed in the crowd.

Authorities in Ankara reportedly shot tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters who had shown up for renewed demonstrations.

'Last warning'

Hours before holding emergency talks, the Turkish premier issued a final warning to protesters in Gezi Park.

"Our patience is at an end. I am making my warning for the last time. I saw to the mothers and fathers, please take your children in hand and bring them out," Erdogan told ministers in Ankara. "We cannot wait any more because Gezi Park does not belong to occupying forces. It belong to everbody."

Erdogan's warning came a day after offering a referendum on the development of the park, what appeared to have been his first concession.

Protesters began a sit-in in Gezi Park late last month to protest development plans, which sought to raze one of Istanbul's few green spaces. Officials want to erect several buildings on the site, including a replica of an Ottoman-styled barracks.

Police began forcefully removing protesters on May 31, prompting a nationwide outcry. Soon, thousands had taken to the streets, most prominently on Istanbul's Taksim Square and in the capital city, Ankara.

The demonstrations have since morphed from an environmental protest into public criticism of Erdogan's increasingly authoritarian government. Critics accuse his government of trying to impose conservative Islamic values after more than a decade in power.

Tensions culminated on Tuesday when authorities cleared Taksim Square using tear gas, water cannons and bulldozers.

Since the mass protests began, at least three people, including one policeman have been killed,according to figures from the Turkish Medical Assocation. It estimates that at least 5,000 have been injured in the unrest.

kms/jm (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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