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Erdogan dismisses Turkey protesters, Gul is conciliatory

June 4, 2013 at 8:15 AM   |   Comments

ISTANBUL, Turkey, June 4 (UPI) -- A trade union with 240,000 members called a two-day strike beginning Tuesday to protest the governing party of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The Confederation of Public Workers' Unions, known as the KESK, rallied demonstrators across all political stripes against security forces who fired tear gas and water cannons in response to what had been peaceful anti-government protests, CNN reported.

At least two people have died in clashes that have flared in the protests that began during the weekend. The Turkish Medical Association said at least 3,195 people were injured in clashes Sunday and Monday, 26 seriously or critically.

The association said the majority of injuries occurred in Istanbul, where the protests began before spreading to Ankara, Izmir, Adana and elsewhere.

While Erdogan has dismissed the protests as the work of extremists or fringe elements, other Turkish leaders issued conciliatory statements.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc apologized for excessive force used by police against the protesters, Today's Zaman reported. Arinc and Turkish President Abdullah Gul met Tuesday to discuss the protests.

"I had a positive meeting with our president, and received [his] orders," Arinc said after the meeting.

Gul said Monday: "Democracy is not just about voting [someone into power]; the message [the protesters want to convey] has been received. What is necessary will be done."

After near chaos Monday, the situation was relatively calm Tuesday morning in Istanbul's Taksim Square, near the park where the protests began, CNN said.

The protests began after plans were made to raze Gezi Park, the last green space in central Istanbul, and replace it with a replica of 19th-century Ottoman barracks and a shopping mall.

The sit-in by a few residents grew into a larger protest with riot police responding with tear gas and pepper spray. The protests against the razing of the park have since changed into larger complaints against Erdogan.

International groups, including Amnesty International, are critical of the police response, calling it excessive, CNN said

Speaking in Morocco, Erdogan said the situation was "calming down," telling reporters, "On my return from this visit, the problems will be solved."

Morocco was the start for Erdogan's four-day swing through North Africa.

The United States has called for an investigation into reports of excessive police use of force.

"What you have is essentially a large group of Turks who feel alienated from this government, in power for 10 years," Richard Haass, a Middle East analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, told CNN. "It's increasingly a one-party country. All the politics happen within it. The opposition is weak, divided, feckless."

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