Middle East

Erdogan to meet Turkey protest leaders: deputy PM

A young man works behind a banner on Taksim square on June 10, 2013 in Istanbul. Turkish protesters refused to back down on June 10 after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned they would "pay a price" for their unrelenting demonstrations against his Islamic-rooted government's decade-long rule. After attracting record crowds of protesters at the weekend, Istanbul's Taksim Square, the cradle of 11 days of unrest, was quieter as many resumed their normal routines, though protesters said they

ANKARA: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday will meet with protest leaders whose mass anti-government demonstrations, now in their 11th day, have rocked the country, his deputy said.

"Our prime minister has given an appointment to some of the groups leading these protests.... They will be briefed on the facts and our prime minister will listen to their thoughts," deputy premier Bulent Arinc said Monday, as fresh protests raged in Istanbul, Ankara and other cities.

The protest movement sprang up after police on May 31 brutally cracked down on campaigners protesting against plans to redevelop Istanbul's Gezi Park, sparking a mass outpouring of anger against the Islamic-rooted government, seen as increasingly authoritarian.

Nearly 5,000 people have been injured in the civil unrest and three people have died, but Erdogan has responded with defiance, dismissing the demonstrators as "extremists" and "vandals".

"Illegal demonstrations will not be allowed anymore in Turkey," Arinc warned after a more than six-hour meeting between Erdogan and cabinet members.

"Everybody faces the consequences of their actions in a state of law," he added.

But Arinc said he did not know which leaders exactly Erdogan would be meeting Wednesday, or whether the talks would include the Taksim Solidarity groups behind the original Gezi Park environmental campaign.

The campaigners say government plans to press on with a project to raze the park and reconstruct military barracks on the site are in violation of a court order suspending the project.

In a conciliatory gesture, Arinc said the government would "follow the court" (on the suspension), adding: "If the court in the ends decides this is wrong, it might be possible to start the work anew."





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