ISTANBUL (Al Jazeera)—Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has contacted US Secretary of State John Kerry to object to recent statements from Washington expressing concern over Turkey’s handling of mass anti-government protests, a foreign ministry diplomat said.
“Turkey is not a second-class democracy,” Davutoglu told Kerry in a phone call late on Tuesday, the diplomat said on condition of anonymity on Wednesday.
Kerry on Monday said he was concerned by reports of excessive use of force by Turkish police to quell the biggest protests since Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s decade in power, urging all sides to “avoid any provocations or violence.”
Davutoglu assured Kerry an investigation was under way into the police response, the ministry source said.
The diplomat added that the foreign minister told Kerry the protests were not “extraordinary”, comparing them to the Occupy Wall Street movement that sprang up in the United States in 2011.
On Tuesday, Deputy Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Arinc apologised to those injured after police used tear gas and water cannon against the protesters and said the government had “learnt its lesson”, in comments that were welcomed by the White House.
List of demands
Meanwhile, activists on Wednesday presented a list of demands they said could end days of anti-government demonstrations that have engulfed Turkey, as police detained dozens of people they accused of using social media to stoke the outpouring of anger.
At least 29 people were arrested in the coastal city of Izmir for encouraging rebellion over social media and tweeting “misleading and libellous information”, according to the state-run Anatolia news agency.
In a move to defuse the tension, the deputy prime minister met with a group whose attempt to prevent authorities from ripping up trees in Istanbul’s landmark Taksim Square has snowballed into nationwide protests against what demonstrators see as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian rule.
Police have deployed water cannons and tear gas has clouded the country’s city centers.
The Ankara-based Human Rights Association says up to 1,000 people have been injured and more than 3,300 people have been detained over five days of protests.
The activist group denounced Erdogan’s “vexing” style and urged the government to halt Taksim Square redevelopment plans, ban the use of tear gas by police, the immediate release of all detained protesters and the lifting of restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly.
It also demanded that officials, including governors and senior police officials, responsible for the violent crackdown be removed from office.
The protests appear to have developed spontaneously and remain leaderless.
It was not at all certain that the tens of thousands of protesters would heed any call by the group to cease.
The group of academics, architects and environmentalists, known as the “Taksim Solidarity Platform,” was formed to protect Taksim Square from development, including the rebuilding of an Ottoman army barracks and a shopping mall.
The protests were sparked by fury over a heavy-handed pre-dawn police raid on Friday to roust activists camping out in an attempt to stop the plans.
Protests appeared to calm a bit by Wednesday afternoon, even as thousands of trade union members on a two-day strike marched to Taksim and to central Ankara.