PM: Extremists trying to destabilise Turkey
ANKARA — Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan says four days of anti-government protests do not constitute a Turkish Spring.
At a news conference before a trip to Morocco, he said the protests were organised by extremists and accused the opposition of provoking “his citizens”.
The protests initially targeted plans to build on a treasured Istanbul park.
They have spread into nationwide anti-government unrest. Protesters clashed with police again today after more overnight violence in Istanbul.
Police used tear gas to stop a group of demonstrators marching on the prime minister’s office in Istanbul, the private Dogan news agency reports.
Officers also reportedly fired teargas and water cannon at hundreds of demonstrators in the capital Ankara today.
Erdogan said during a televised news conference: “There are those attending these events organised by extremists. This is not about Gezi Park anymore. These are organised events with affiliations both within Turkey and abroad.
“The main opposition party CHP has provoked my innocent citizens. Those who make news [and] call these events the Turkish Spring do not know Turkey.”
Meanwhile, Turkish President Abdullah Gul urged calm and defended protesters’ rights to hold peaceful demonstrations.
“If there are different opinions, different situations, different points of view and dissent, there is nothing more natural that being able to voice those differences,” he was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency.
“The messages delivered with good intentions have been received.”
Protesters say the Turkish government is becoming increasingly authoritarian.
They fear Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party is trying to impose conservative Islamic values on the officially secular country and infringe on their personal freedoms, correspondents say.
Officials say more than 1,700 people have been arrested in demonstrations in 67 towns and cities, though many have since been released. (BBC)