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Turkey's Prime Minister Issues Warning To 'Lawbreakers'

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a strong warning to the protesters camped out at Taksim Square in Istanbul.

He said that within 24 hours, the situation at the square would be resolved. As The New York Times reports, the tough talk was tempered with an olive branch of sorts: Erdogan hinted that a referendum could decide whether a mall would be built in place of a park next to the square.

As we've reported, a small peaceful protest against the redevelopment kicked off the largest anti-government protests in recent memory.

The Times adds:

"'We have not responded to punches with punches. From now on security forces will respond differently,' Mr. Erdogan said on Wednesday. 'This issue will be over in 24 hours.'

"Mr. Erdogan reiterated and sharpened that warning in a speech on Thursday morning.

"'Using a Molotov cocktail is a crime, burning and destroying is a crime, destroying public order is a crime,' he said in his televised statement, in reference to protesters who set barriers around Gezi Park to block police interference. 'These cannot be called a struggle for freedom, struggle for rights.'"

NBC News reports that shortly before Erdogan's speech, the European Union Parliament passed a non-binding motion expressing concern over "the disproportionate and excessive use of force" by Turkish police.

Erdogan reacted viscerally. He said: "I won't recognize the decision that the European Union Parliament is going to take about us. ... Who do you think you are by taking such a decision?"

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.