Offering no sign of caving to the widespread demonstrations gripping his country, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is accusing anti-government protesters of being “arm-in-arm with terrorism” and even suggested foreign meddling might be behind the protests.
Before flying to Morocco on Monday, Erdogan said, "This is a protest organized by extremist elements.”
"We will not give away anything to those who live arm-in-arm with terrorism,” he added, according to Reuters.
A protestor picks up a Turkish flag during clashes with police at a demonstration in Ankara on June 3, 2013 after days of protests against the Islamic-rooted government. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday rejected talk of a 'Turkish Spring', shrugging off mass protests against his government as medics reported the first death in days of violence. Rallies started there last week initially in protest at plans to redevelop the adjacent Gezi Park, a rare green spot in central Istanbul, and quickly spread, inflamed by anger at the police crackdown. Credit: AFP/Getty Images
The Turkish news site Hurriyet Daily News writes that Erdogan also said that Turkish intelligence services were looking into possible links between the protests at Taksim Square in Istanbul and foreign powers.
“Our intelligence work is ongoing [to determine the foreign actors behind the protests]. It is not possible to reveal their names. But we will have meetings with their heads,” Erdogan said according to Hurriyet.
Besides terrorism and foreign actors, Erdogan is also blaming his secular enemies. Reuters writes that Erdogan has also “dismissed the protests as the work of secular enemies never reconciled to the election success of his AK party, which has roots in Islamist parties banned in the past but which also embraces center-right and nationalist elements.”
Addressing the debate over if the ongoing demonstrations at Taksim Square are reminiscent of the Arab Spring protests at Tahrir Square in Cairo, Erdogan dismissed that too, saying the public is not behind the protesters. He believes his leadership has led to a “Turkish Spring.”
The country is already experiencing a “Turkish Spring” and will not give way to those who want to turn it into a winter, Erdogan said, referring to the economic development that has benefited some during his rule.
Per capita income has reached $10,500 during the ruling party’s tenure, he said, adding that this had made some “jealous.”
While Erdogan accuses Turkish citizens who have for the past four days poured into the streets around the country of being in partnership with terrorism, he’s withheld that characterization when discussing the Gaza flotilla activists. Some of the passengers on one of the ships of the 2010 flotilla, the Mavi Marmara, were members of the IHH, which Turkey calls a humanitarian organization but which the Israeli government and some U.S. and European lawmakers consider to be a terrorist group.
Erdogan last month invited the father of one of the activists killed on the Mavi Marmara to join his delegation on his official visit to the U.S. During that visit, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu organized a meeting between the father and Secretary of State John Kerry.
The son, Furkan Dogan, a dual U.S.-Turkish citizen, was killed when Israeli commandos boarded the ship to enforce the sea blockade of Gaza aimed at blocking Hamas from importing weapons. According to the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, an Israeli think tank, shortly after the flotilla incident, a Turkish newspaper printed quotes from Dogan’s diary, in which he said he wanted to be a martyr, suggesting his intentions weren’t humanitarian.
Of the demonstrations in Turkey this week, Kerry on Monday said, "We are concerned by the reports of excessive use of force by police.”
According to DPA (German Press Agency), one person has been killed and more than 2,300 people wounded since the protests began last week.