Police in Istanbul have broken up a massive protest on Taksim Square, the epicenter of recent demonstrations against the prime minister. The raid came hours after the premier said protests would no longer be tolerated.
A day-long protest against Prime Minister Erdogan's government culminated in a showdown with riot police on Taksim Square late on Tuesday. Thousands of demonstrators attempted to hold their ground. Some threw stones and bottles and set off fireworks as police squads approached.
Riot police shot canisters of tear gas into a crowd estimated at 30,000 and deployed water cannon, dispersing many who had protested peacefully.
The square was under police control on Wednesday morning. Hundreds of weary protestors had regrouped in the adjourning Gezi Park.
That is where on May 31 a police crackdown on environmentalists, who were seeking to save the green space from redevelopment, spiralled into mass displays of anger against Erdogan's rule.
Later on Wednesday, Erdogan was to due to hold talks with some protest leaders. Many demonstrators said the unexpected crackdown on Taksim Square had eroded their faith in his readiness for dialogue, according to the news agency AFP.
The capital Ankara also saw renewed clashes on Tuesday night as riot police used gas, pepper spray and water cannon against thousands of protesters near the US embassy. Some threw rocks in response.
Tuesday's police clearance of Taksim Square came several hours after Erdogan again issued a warning.
"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 during a speech before lawmakers in Ankara on Tuesday.
"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," he added.
Erdogan's words sharply contrasted to what his government had said just a day earlier. On Monday, his deputy premier, 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.
Turkish allies concerned
The recent renewal of harsh crack downs has drawn 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 n-TV on Tuesday.
"We call on the Turkish government to respect the rights of its citizens," Löning added.
United States officials have also urged Ankara and Turkish protesters to "refrain from provoking violence."
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) condemned the police crackdown in Istanbul and called for dialogue.
"Tear-gassing tens of thousands of protesters in Taksim Square won't end this crisis," HRW said in a statement. Amnesty called for an end to end to "abusive use of force" by Turkish police.
Turkey's nationwide unrest erupted after police cracked down heavily on May 31 on a campaign to save Gezi Park from redevelopment, spiralling into mass displays of anger against Erdogan.
Four people, including a policeman, have died in the unrest. Nearly 5,000 demonstrators have been injured,
kms/ipj (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)