Tuesday 17 October 2017

Britons urged to avoid protests

Thousands of people gather in support of demonstrators staging a sit-in to prevent the uprooting of trees at an Istanbul park, in Ankara, Turkey (AP)
Thousands of people gather in support of demonstrators staging a sit-in to prevent the uprooting of trees at an Istanbul park, in Ankara, Turkey (AP)
A man helps a boy to get out of the area as riot police clash with demonstrators in Turkey (AP)
A man falls as riot police use tear gas and pressurised water to quash a peaceful demonstration in Istanbul (AP)

The Foreign Office is advising Britons to avoid anti-government demonstrations in Turkey.

A factual update on their website reads: "Demonstrations are taking place in Istanbul and in other cities across Turkey, including Ankara. Police are using tear gas and water cannons in response. We advise British nationals to avoid all demonstrations."

Travel organisation The Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) said approximately 15,000 holidaymakers from the UK would have been in Turkey over the past week during the half-term break, but that many would be returning this weekend.

However, an Abta spokeswoman said most tourist resorts are in coastal areas, away from the cities where protests are taking place. She added: "The vast majority of people travelling to Turkey shouldn't be affected, but if people are in Istanbul they should avoid central areas where the demonstrations are happening."

The Foreign Office advises against all but essential travel to parts of Turkey that are close to the Syrian border, and warns about the "high threat" from terrorism.

The demonstrations in Turkey are now in their second day. Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called for them to end but indicated the government would press ahead with redevelopment plans that sparked the protests in the first place.

Speaking in a televised address, he said police would break down the protests at a main square in Istanbul. He added that officers may have used tear gas excessively and that this would be investigated.

The protests grew out of anger at heavy-handed police tactics yesterday to break up a peaceful sit-in by people trying to protect a park in Istanbul's main Taksim square from government plans to revamp the area. Officials have said the plans include building a shopping centre and the reconstruction of a former Ottoman army barracks.

The park demonstration turned into a wider protest against Mr Erdogan, who is seen as becoming increasingly authoritarian, and spread to other Turkish cities despite a court decision to temporarily halt the demolition of the park.

More than 2,500,000 British nationals visit Turkey every year, according to the Foreign Office. Turkey is a popular choice for families during the long summer holidays, with some 800,000-900,000 Britons heading there in July and August, Abta said.

https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/foreign-commonwealth-office(Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

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