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Turkey seeks negotiated end to continuing unrest

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By Reuters
Thursday, June 13, 2013, 9:45 p.m.

ISTANBUL — Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and the governor of Istanbul made what appeared to be final efforts to end two weeks of anti-government unrest by negotiation on Friday, meeting opponents of controversial plans to redevelop a city park.

Erdogan met a delegation mostly made up of actors and artists but also including two members of the umbrella protest group Taksim Solidarity, hours after saying his patience had run out and warning protesters occupying Gezi Park to leave.

Separately, Istanbul Gov. Huseyin Avni Mutlu offered to meet demonstrators from Taksim Square, the epicenter of the protests, at a cafe by the Bosphorus waterway to discuss their demands that the government abandon plans to build a replica Ottoman-era barracks on the park, which adjoins Taksim.

“For those who want to talk face-to-face tonight, from midnight we will talk in groups, if necessary until morning,” Mutlu said on his Twitter account.

A police crackdown on the park nearly two weeks ago triggered an unprecedented wave of protest against Erdogan and his AK Party — an association of centrists and conservative religious elements — drawing in secularists, nationalists, professionals, unionists and students.

Erdogan has already discussed the plans to build over the park with various people who support the protesters, but had refused until Thursday to meet with the Taksim Solidarity group at the heart of the campaign to protect it.

Late on Thursday, he appeared to suggest that hundreds of protesters, camped out in a ramshackle settlement of tents in Gezi Park, could be forcibly evicted, although Mutlu said later there were no such immediate plans.

“Our patience is at an end. I am making my warning for the last time. I say to the mothers and fathers, please take your children in hand and bring them out ... Gezi Park does not belong to occupying forces but to the people,” Erdogan said.

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