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Defiant Turkish PM Erdogan Urges End to Protests

 Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, waves to the crowd upon his arrival at the Ataturk Airport of Istanbul early Friday, June 7, 2013. Erdogan took a combative stance on his closely watched return to the country early Friday, telling supporters who thronged to greet him that the protests that have swept the country must come to an end. (Thanassis Stavrakis/AP)

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called for protests across the country to end immediately.

At Istanbul airport he told crowds of supporters who were welcoming him home from a four-day North Africa tour that the protests bordered on illegality.

But as he spoke, thousands of anti-government protesters were also rallying in Istanbul's Taksim Square.

The unrest began as a local protest over a park in Istanbul but spiralled into nationwide demonstrations.

'Common sense'

An estimated 10,000 supporters of Mr Erdogan's AKP party descended on the airport to welcome him home in the early hours of Friday.

Standing alongside his wife and government ministers on an open-top bus, he told the crowd: "I call for an immediate end to the demonstrations, which have lost their democratic credentials and turned into vandalism."

Some of his supporters chanted: "Let us go, let's crush Taksim."

However, Mr Erdogan urged them to "go home" peacefully.

"You have remained calm, mature and showed common sense," he said. "We're all going to go home from here."

It was the first major show support for Mr Erdogan following a week of protests in which his opponents have called for him to resign.

The BBC's Mark Lowen in Istanbul says the rapturous welcome that the prime minister received shows the level of support he still commands.

However, Mr Erdogan's words are likely to fan the flames of the protest, he adds.

The divisions in Turkey look set to deepen in the days ahead and could be very dangerous indeed, our correspondent says.

The original sit-in at Gezi Park last Friday spiralled into mass protests after police cracked down on activists defending the green space near Taksim Square from developers.

Categories: International Affairs