Ankara, Bloomberg—Turkey’s government said Istanbul’s Gezi Park won’t be redeveloped until a court rules on the plan and the public is consulted, after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan held late-night talks with protesters.
The premier met for four hours with a group including two representatives of Taksim Solidarity, which has spoken on behalf of protesters who have filled Istanbul’s Taksim Square for the past two weeks, the official Anatolia News Agency said. It was Erdoğan’s first contact with the Solidarity group since the protests escalated on May 31 and spread to other cities.
After the talks, Cabinet spokesman Huseyin Celik said the government will “implement the decision that Istanbulites take,” referring to a pledge for public consultation, and won’t act before the court’s decision. Asked whether the government will intervene to clear the park of protesters, Celik said, “I don’t think the government will tolerate this Gezi Park being kept under occupation for very long.”
The unrest has presented Erdoğan with one of his biggest challenges since he took office more than 10 years ago, as protesters denounce what they say is the pro-Islamist leader’s autocratic style. The spectacle of tens of thousands of demonstrators marching in city streets and police turning tear gas, water cannons and truncheons on protesters has battered Turkish stocks and bonds.
Istanbul Governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu, who met with some 150 protesters for five hours until dawn Friday, said they are likely to agree to end the occupation of the park at night while keeping a daytime presence there, Anatolia reported. The park has been full of tents for two weeks.
The government’s commitments so far “do not include the protestors’ main demand of an official cancellation of plans regarding the future of Gezi Park,” Ibrahim Aksoy, an economist at Seker Invest in Istanbul, said in an e-mailed note. “Yet we find the recent meeting positive as it shows that there is still room for dialogue.”
Seventy people were taken to court in Istanbul today after they were detained for throwing Molotov cocktails and stones at police during the protests, Anatolia said.
Hundreds of mothers rushed to the square yesterday and formed a human chain to protect their children, chanting anti- government slogans. Erdoğan and Mutlu had urged parents to get their children away from the protest so that police can deal with what they say are extremist groups that joined it.
At least four people have died in clashes since May 31. The Turkish Medical Association says almost 7,500 have sought medical treatment. The demonstrators say Erdoğan’s Islamist-rooted government has been emboldened by three successive electoral victories to ignore the views of more secular-oriented Turks who didn’t vote for them. They cite measures including curbs on alcohol and an increase in religious teaching at schools.
Celik said investigations have started into the use of excessive force against protesters, and offenders will be punished according to the law.