News / Middle East

Turkish PM Agrees to Postpone Park Redevelopment

People light candles in victims' memory of recent protests at Taksim Square in Istanbul, June 14, 2013.
People light candles in victims' memory of recent protests at Taksim Square in Istanbul, June 14, 2013.
Dorian Jones
— Late night talks between Turkish Prime Minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan and protest representatives have brought the hope of a peaceful outcome to the two weeks of nationwide anti-government protests. The unrest was sparked by government plans to redevelop a park in central Istanbul. Now those plans are on hold.   

In the early hours of Friday morning, representatives for protesters and a government spokesman described the all night meeting as positive.

Friday,  Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has appealed to protesters to evacuate park by late Friday, after pledging to suspend plans to redevelop the site.

In a televised speech Friday,  Erdogan said the protesters have remained in the park long enough and have delivered their message.  He said that message has been "received and evaluated."

The meeting in the capital, Ankara, was the first time Erdogan had met protest organizers directly.  He said he would respect a court injunction blocking his plans to redevelop Gezi Park in central Istanbul and he committed his government to accepting its final decision.

Speaking after Thursday night's meeting, government spokesman Huseyin Celik said the talks had a positive outcome.

He says that Turkey is a state of law and it is impossible for the executive branch to perform an unlawful act. He says the government must conform to a court decision.
 
Celik said a public vote would be held on the future of Gezi Park.

Plans to redevelop the park into a shopping center were the initial spark for the protests, which then broadened into anti-government demonstrations in several cities.

Tayfun Kahraman, one of the protest organizers, welcomed the government move.
 
He says that delaying the project until the judiciary makes a decision is a positive result.

  • A protester makes the victory sign as he sits outside Gezi Park in front of riot police vehicles at Taksim Square, Istanbul, June 14, 2013.
  • Protesters watch a film in Gezi Park in Istanbul, June 14, 2013.
  • German pianist Davide Martello is surrounded by anti-government protesters as he performs in Istanbul's Taksim Square, June 13, 2013.
  • Protesters stand in front of a barricade at Gezi park, Istanbul, June 13, 2013.
  • Taksim Square is flooded by tear gas during clashes between protesters and riot police, Istanbul, June 11, 2013.
  • Police operate during clashes at Taksim Square, Istanbul, June 11, 2013.
  • A protester tries to take cover from a water cannon fired by police during clashes in Taksim Square in Istanbul, June 11, 2013.
  • A protester throws a tear gas canister back at police during clashes in Taksim Square in Istanbul, June 11, 2013.
  • A protester throws a gas bomb towards riot police during clashes in Taksim Square in Istanbul, June 11, 2013.
  • A protester throws a petrol bomb towards a crowd control vehicle in Taksim Square in Istanbul, June 11, 2013.
  • A crowd control vehicle fires a water cannon against protesters in Taksim Square in Istanbul, June 11, 2013.
  • A protester walks in front of a burning barricade during clashes in Taksim Square in Istanbul, June 11, 2013.
  • Protesters carry another protester affected by tear gas during clashes in Taksim Square in Istanbul, June 11, 2013.

Kahraman is a member of Taksim Solidarity which initiated the occupation of Gezi Park  that sparked the nationwide unrest.   

Throughout the night hundreds of the police backed by armored cars surrounded the park ready to move against the protestors who spent the night listening to live music and  waiting on developments in Ankara.

Earlier, Erdogan took a tough line on the protests, branding the demonstrators as "extremists" and "looters."

Speaking at a meeting of his ruling AK Party (AKP) in Ankara on Thursday, Erdogan said that the government's patience is at an end and that he is making a last warning to protesters

For now, the police appear to have backed off. The government is still calling for an end to the occupation of the park but appear to have dropped the 24-hour ultimatum.  The protestors are due to decide whether to continue their occupation.

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Comments
     
by: JKF from: Ottawa, Canada
June 14, 2013 6:30 PM
It is good to hear that the conflict, over the future of the Gezi park, is being defused. This is not a unique situation in Turkey; as more and more people around the world come to realize the need for green spaces, in crowded cities, it has become a high priority for the wellbeing of all. We have seen protests all over the world wrt the need to protect and preserve the environment. I just hope Erdogan keeps his word on this issue; we already have enough, ongoing, conflicts around the world, no one needs another one in Turkey.

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