London and Istanbul, Asharq Al-Awsat–Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan held a meeting with a number of protesters at the headquarters of the Justice and Development Party (AKP). The prime minister described the protests as a foreign conspiracy and accused international media of exaggerated reporting.
Speaking at his party headquarters on Thursday, he said: “Our patience is at an end. I am warning for the last time. I ask the mothers and fathers to please take your children by the hand and bring them out…Gezi Park does not belong to occupying forces but to the people.”
An unnamed official from the prime minister’s office said Erdoğan will meet the “people” next Saturday and Sunday, in Istanbul and Ankara. He said one million were expected to attend the Istanbul event, while hundreds of thousands were expected in Ankara.
Erdoğan’s advisors have been blaming outside influence for the protests. Emrullah İşler, a prominent advisor to the prime minister, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Erdoğan is a real leader, and they have failed to topple him at the ballot box, so, they took to the streets. Now, the situation has turned, and tens of thousands of Turkish people took to the streets to welcome him back when he returned from his North Africa visit.”
Meanwhile, President Abdullah Gul called for dialogue to resolve the issues. He told reporters in the Black Sea city of Rize that he will talk to the peaceful protesters as “this was our duty.” However Gul stressed that “those who used violence were a different matter, and they must be isolated. We must not give them an opportunity. This will not be allowed in New York, and it will not be allowed in Berlin.”
Opinion polls published yesterday said a quarter of the Turks supported the anti-government protests, while more than half rejected them. Only 7.5% wanted the protests to continue, according to the poll, held by Turkey’s Indir institute.
Meanwhile, the Turkish protests have drawn reactions from around the world. The strongest reaction came from Berlin, where Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Prime Minister Erdoğan to conduct dialogue with the protesters.
According to the German news agency, government spokesman Steffen Seibert said that Berlin was monitoring the developments in Istanbul with “great concern,” adding that “only dialogue will guarantee a lasting resolution to the problem.”
In Italy, Foreign Minister Emma Bonino said yesterday that the protests in Turkey represent “the first true test” for Turkey’s desire to join the EU. She criticized the “use of disproportionate force” in dealing with the protesters.
Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, said “Paris is hoping for calm and restraint” in Turkey, adding that “in democracy, dialogue is a must. This is what [Turkish] president Abdullah Gul called for and what I hope will be implemented.”
The United Nations and the United States urged Turkey on Tuesday evening to respect the protesters’ right to demonstrate. Spokesperson for the US National Security Council, Caitlin Hayden, said “we are concerned about any attempt to prosecute individuals exercising their right to free expression.”