7 Jun 2013

Turkish PM denounces 'extremists' behind protests

8:09 am on 7 June 2013

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he will press ahead with plans to develop a park in Istanbul which sparked mass protests rocking the country.

Mr Erdogan described some of the demonstrators as extremists and seven foreigners had been arrested over the unrest.

The economic response was swift, with the stock market dropping nearly 5% after the prime minister's announcement.

The original sit-in at Gezi Park spiralled into nationwide unrest after police cracked down on activists defending the green space near Istanbul's Taksim Square from developers.

For days, demonstrators in Istanbul, Ankara and other cities have been calling for the three-term prime minister to quit.

The prime minister made his comments during a visit to Tunisia and was returning to Turkey on Thursday.

Mr Erdogan acknowledged that police had used "excessive force" against activists at the original sit-in. But he said that a small group of extremists was now manipulating what had started as an environmental protest.

Mr Erdogan defended the urban development plan for Gezi Park saying the project respects Turkey's history, culture and environment. "What we are doing is to protect the rights of the majority and to preserve the beauty of Istanbul."