Turkish PM calls for pro-government rallies

Thousands welcome Recep Tayyip Erdogan as he returns to the capital, while police use water cannon against protesters.

Last Modified: 09 Jun 2013 21:10
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Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been welcomed by crowds of supporters in Ankara as he returned to the capital amid protests against his government.

Erdogan called on his supporters to prepare for pro-government rallies next weekend in Istanbul and Ankara, as riot police fired tear gas and water cannon to clear anti-government protesters from an Ankara square.

"On Saturday, are you ready for a big Ankara meeting? The next day we will have the Istanbul meeting," Erdogan told cheering crowds in Ankara on Sunday.

He also told thousands of supporters greeting him at Ankara airport that his patience had its limits, hours after his spokesman ruled out early elections in response to a wave of nationwide protests.

"We were patient, we will be patient, but there is an end to patience," Erdogan told crowds chanting slogans including "We are ready to sacrifice our lives for you Tayyip!".

Earlier on Sunday, he visited the city of Adana, urging Turks to respond to the demonstrations by voting for his AK Party in next year's local polls.

"I want you to teach them a first lesson through democratic means at the ballot box," he said.

Elections as scheduled

Erdogan delivered speeches at two airports, a sports hall, two Ankara districts and atop a bridge before heading to his party headquarters, calling for the protests to end at every opportunity.

"I call on my brothers who are duped: please put an end to your actions. Look, we have come to these days with patience.

"As a prime minister, I say enough."

Erdogan also attended a meeting of his ruling party's Central Decision and Executive Council in Istanbul.

Following the meeting, Huseyin Celik, the deputy chairman of the AK Party, said local and presidential elections would be held next year as planned, and a general election in 2015.

However, Erdogan's opponents are vowing to keep up their demonstrations against what they say are his authoritarian and Islamist policies.

Tens of thousands of protesters turned out in Istanbul's Taksim Square, while thousands more turned out on the seafront in the western coastal city of Izmir and police used water cannon to break up a gathering by demonstrators in Ankara's Kizilay Square.

Members of a group naming itself Taksim Solidarity Platform organised another rally in Istanbul on Sunday to "cry out their demands" and give an "answer to the government".

The group's demands include restricting police from using tear gas, release of all detained prisoners and the dismissal of officials responsible for the crackdown on the protests over the last few days.

Al Jazeera's Erman Yuksel reported that Sunday's crowd in Taksim Square was the biggest since the beginning of anti-government demonstrations almost two weeks ago.

Thousands of protesters together with the representatives of different political groups and labour unions gathered in the square to attend the rally.

Nationwide protests

The protests, initially triggered by controversial plans to redevelop the Gezi Park in Taksim, have entered their 13th day, with protesters camping in Taksim.

"A week ago, I could never imagine myself sleeping out on the streets of Istanbul," said 22-year-old Aleyna, wrapped up under a blanket with a stray kitten, pointing to her dirty clothes. "Now I don't know how I can ever go back."

In a Twitter message, Istanbul governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu expressed his desire to meet the protesters amid criticism of his role in the response to the protests. 

A heavyhanded police crackdown on the small campaign to save Gezi Park from demolition fuelled nationwide protests against Erdogan and his AK Party, seen as increasingly authoritarian.

Police have used tear gas and water cannons to disperse demonstrators in clashes that have injured thousands of people and left three dead, tarnishing Turkey's image as a model of Islamic democracy.

The prime minister has previously dismissed the demonstrators as "looters" manipulated by extremists.


Al Jazeera and agencies
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