Turkish PM will meet protesters to end violence
Turkey's prime minister will meet with a group of protesters occupying Istanbul's central Taksim Square this week as the government seeks a way out of the impasse that has led to hundreds of protests in dozens of cities.
Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said, however, that the government would no longer tolerate "illegal acts" and implied that the occupation of Taksim and its accompanying Gezi Park would be over by the weekend.
"Illegal acts in Turkey from now on won't be allowed and whatever needs to be done according to the law will be done," he said after a cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The protests appeared to be on the wane yesterday, with the smallest number of demonstrators in the past 11 days gathering in Taksim last night.
Smaller protests occurred in Ankara, too, with about 5,000 people demonstrating. Police there have used water cannon and tear gas to break up demonstrations almost every night.
Three people have died and more than 5,000 have been treated for injuries or the effects of gas during the protests. The government says 600 police officers have also been injured.
Mr Erdogan will meet Gezi Park protesters tomorrow, following a request by some of the protesters, Mr Arinc said. With no clear leadership organising the Gezi occupation, it was unclear who the prime minister would be meeting.
The unrest was sparked by a violent police crackdown on a peaceful sit-in by protesters objecting to a project replacing the park with a barracks.
The crackdown galvanised tens of thousands of Turks. The demonstrations quickly turned into a denunciation of what many see as Mr Erdogan's increasingly autocratic ways and attempts to impose Muslim values on a country with secular laws – charges the prime minister vehemently rejects.