Kerry concerned over ‘excessive force’ in Turkey

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday voiced concern over “reports of excessive use of force” by Turkish police in clashes with demonstrators in Ankara and other Turkish cities.

Kerry stressed that the United States supported the right to peaceful protests and said Washington was “deeply concerned about the numbers of people injured,” urging all sides to “avoid any provocations or violence.”

“We are concerned by the reports of excessive use of force by police,” Kerry told reporters after talks with his Polish counterpart Radoslaw Sikorski.

“We obviously hope that there will be a full investigation of those incidents and full restraint from the police force with respect to those kinds of incidents.”

Rights groups say hundreds have been wounded in clashes nationwide that have pitted stone-throwing protesters against riot police firing tear gas and water cannons since Friday.

AFP photographers in Ankara on Monday saw police fire tear gas and use water cannon to disperse stone-throwing demonstrators on the fourth day of violent protests that have swept scores of Turkish cities.

The protests started as a small campaign against the redevelopment of Gezi Park near Taksim Square, a rare green spot in central Istanbul.

But a harsh police response set off a wave of fury directed at the decade-long rule of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Turkey is a key regional ally for the United States, and the two countries have been working together closely, particularly over the conflict in neighboring Syria.

Washington has made its concerns known to Turkish officials and updated its travel warnings for U.S. citizens.

But Kerry insisted: “We don’t say these things to interfere in another country’s choices or events, but we say these things to reaffirm what we believe are universal principles and values that are essential to the practice of democracy.”

He also stressed that despite the upheaval he believed Turkish officials remained fully engaged in trying to resolve the crisis in Syria.

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