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    Park activists urged to leave

    Turkish PM gives ‘final warning’

    A protestor gestured before a portrait of former President Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in Instanbul’s Taksim square.
    A protestor gestured before a portrait of former President Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in Instanbul’s Taksim square.

    ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s prime minister urged a small delegation of protesters on Friday to persuade hundreds of others occupying an Istanbul park to withdraw.

    Turkish activists leading a sit-in were considering a promise by Recep Tayyip Erdogan to let the courts and a potential referendum decide the fate of the much-despised Gezi Park redevelopment project — a plan that has sparked Turkey’s biggest protests in decades. The pledge was made during last-ditch negotiations after Erdogan had issued a ‘‘final warning’’ to protesters.

    The two-week standoff has damaged Erdogan’s international reputation and led to repeated interventions by riot police.


    After initially inflaming tensions by dubbing the protesters ‘‘terrorists,’’ the prime minister has moderated his stance in closed-door talks over the last few days.

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    But Erdogan told party members Friday that the protesters in the park had ‘‘stayed long enough.’’

    “‘Go and speak to them . . . . Don’t let us be forced into reverting to different measures,’’’ Erdogan said he had told the protestors’ representatives.

    Earlier in the day, Erdogan’s ruling party announced the government would suspend its plan to cut down trees in Gezi Park and install a replica Ottoman barracks until the courts could rule on its legality.

    And even if the courts side with the government, a city referendum would be held to determine the plan’s fate, officials said.


    It remained far from clear, however, whether the overtures would work.

    Erdogan has pledged to end the two-week protest but has also urged his supporters to rally in Ankara and Istanbul this weekend. Those demonstrations could raise tension between his conservative Islamic base and the park occupants, who are mostly, but not all, liberal- and secular-minded.

    The Taksim Solidarity group, two of whose members were in the meeting with Erdogan, has emerged as the most high-profile from the occupation that began last month. But it does not speak for all of the hundreds camping in the park, many of whom claim no affiliation to any group.

    Bilge Seckin, a member of the umbrella group, said discussions about Erdogan’s initiative were continuing, but she sensed ‘‘the general feeling is that the people’s requests were not addressed’’ during the talks with the prime minister. It was not clear when, or if, the protest groups would make a formal response to Erdogan’s initiative.

    Many protesters were still seething at how a peaceful protest has been sometimes overtaken as riot police clashed with groups of stone- and firebomb-throwing youths.


    Such scenes prompted the European Parliament to condemn the Turkish police’s severe response.

    Erdogan’s opponents have grown increasingly suspicious of what they call a gradual erosion of freedoms and secular Turkish values under his Islamic-rooted party’s leadership.

    Mobilizing the courts and a referendum, however, could shield the prime minister from accusations of an authoritarian response.