PM Erdoğan ‘sorry’ for gas but won’t back down on Gezi Park
Erdoğan has linked protesters who damaged business places to those who attacked the U.S. Embassy in Ankara on Feb. 1. AFP Photo
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in Tunis today that his government has expressed its sorrow for those hurt by repeated police attacks in the early stages of the Istanbul protests even while vowing to plow ahead with his plans to destroy Taksim Gezi Park.
“The sensitivities of people for environmental issues have been abused. We already expressed our sorrow for the excessive use of force,” Erdoğan said today at a joint press conference with his Tunisian counterpart, Ali al-Urayyid.
He was referring to a speech by Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç on June 4, in which he said: “In that first event, the excessive demonstration of violence against those acting with environmental sensitivity was wrong and unfair. I apologize to those citizens. I can easily say that, but I do not think we owe an apology to those who destroyed the streets.”
However, the prime minister also underlined his dedication to finalizing a construction project there, defending the Artillery Barracks project that is set to be built in the park.
“Our Taksim project is a plant that unites history and nature. And this project will produce a very beautiful environment in Istanbul,” he said.
The government also will build a “beautiful and strong” opera house, replacing the existing Atatürk Kültür Merkezi, the cultural center in Taksim Square.
There will also be trees around the opera house, he said.
Erdoğan also did not change his stance on the street violence.
He said those who caused damage as part of the Taksim Gezi Park protests were the same as those who staged the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, in which one security guard and one attacker were killed and a journalist was wounded.
Ecevit Şanlı, a member of the outlawed Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C), conducted the attack.
“They were caught both at squares and on social media with all they had,”
There are no countries, including developed ones, that do not use tear gas, he said.
Regarding the demands of the protesters conveyed to Arınç on June 6, Erdoğan said it was “meaningless to have a race.”
“The logic of ‘If I take this, I give this,’ ‘If you give this, I want this’ has no place in running a state,” the prime minister said.
Erdoğan said his party never considered sending its members to the streets.
People have right to demonstrate, he said. “But you cannot demonstrate everywhere and burn and demolish,” he added. “We [as a party] collected 2.15 million votes, and still face being closed down, but never called our voters to the street. “The courts have returned our right.”
The prime minister was criticized for his earlier remarks, as he said he was hardly keeping some 50 percent of the country in their houses, referring to his voters.
Erdoğan was expected to return to Turkey late on June 6, finalizing his short trip to North African nations.