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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.
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.

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.