Turkish protestors say PM to respect court ruling on Istanbul park

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Turkish protesters said on Friday that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed not to take action with revamp plans to the now iconic Istanbul park until a court ruled on the project.

The announcement came as protest leaders held an emergency meeting for the first time with Erdogan last night. They expressed their rejection of his “last warning” to evacuate the Gezi park.

Local television showed a dozen of Taksim Solidarity representatives attending talks with the prime minister in Turkey’s capital, Ankara.

The delegation considered Erdogan’s pledge a positive sign after two weeks of protest, Reuters reported.

Taksim Solidarity said the prime minister had promised to abide by the outcome of an ongoing court case that was filed in an effort to stop development on the park. The activist group added they would hold a referendum on the plans if the court verdict was in the government's favor.

"The prime minister said that if the results of the public vote turned out in a way which would leave this area as a park, they will abide by it," Tayfun Kahraman of the protest group told reporters following the meeting, as quoted by Reuters.

"His comments that the project will not be executed until the judiciary makes its decision is tonight's positive result."

Earlier in the day, Erdogan took a combative stance against the protesters at Gezi Park, who have imposed the largest challenge to his decade-long rule.

"I'm making my last warning: mothers, fathers please withdraw your kids from there," he said in a live television broadcast. "Gezi Park does not belong to occupying forces. It belongs to everybody."

But as talks were underway, police fired tear gas and water cannon at around 200 protesters gathered in Ankara city center, not far from Erdogan's offices, witnesses told AFP.

Some five demonstrators were arrested, AFP said.

Justice and Development Party (AKP) spokesman Huseyin Celik insisted that the Turkish government will not move forward with any revamp plans at Gezi Park until a referendum they had promised on its future had taken place, AFP reported.

"We want to know what the population of Istanbul thinks, its decision is very important for us," he added.

In Istanbul, thousands of protesters spent another night under the stars in the park, having earlier rebuffed Erdogan's call to leave in return for a referendum on the park's planned redevelopment.

The fight to save the park's 600 trees prompted a brutal police crackdown two weeks ago, provoking nationwide protests against Erdogan and his Islamic-rooted government, which critics see as increasingly authoritarian.

Four people have died in the nationwide unrest so far and some 5,000 demonstrators, most of whom are young and middle-class, have been injured.

(With AFP and Reuters)

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