Germany calls Istanbul protest crackdown ‘disturbing,’ EU urges dialogue

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Images of demonstrators in Istanbul’s Taksim Square being chased down by riot police are “disturbing,” German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said on Wednesday.

“The Turkish government is sending the wrong message to the country and to Europe with its response to date to the protests,” Westerwelle said in a statement quoted by Agence France Presse.

Ankara must do “all in its power” to protect democratic rights, he added.

“We expect Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan to de-escalate the situation in the spirit of European values and initiate constructive communication and peaceful dialogue.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday urged Turkey’s government to renounce violence against protesters, and said Berlin was closely monitoring developments, AFP reported.

Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, on Wednesday called on Erdogan to show Turkey’s democratic credentials and opt for dialogue with anti-government protesters as Ankara seeks to gain EU membership.

In her first public statement on Turkey’s troubles in a speech to the European Parliament, Ashton said Erdogan’s response to protesters must be “engagement, not antagonism,” AFP reported.

She denounced police usage of tear gas, plastic bullets, pepper spray and water cannons against “overwhelmingly peaceful” protestors.

Ashton also criticized the Turkish media’s “initially sparse” coverage of the protests, as well as attempts to condemn and curb social media.

“Freedom of the media is a concern in Turkey,” she said.

Four people, including a policeman, have died in the unrest so far, according to AFP.

Nearly 5,000 demonstrators have been injured, harming the country’s image as a model of Islamic democracy.

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