Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has agreed to meet with leaders of the protest movement whose opposition to the razing of an Istanbul park was a catalyst for anti-government demonstrations that began more than a week ago, the government said Monday, according to the New York Times.
The meeting between Erdogan and the protest leaders is scheduled for Wednesday, according to deputy prime minister and government spokesman Bulent Arinc.
It was the first sign that Erdogan, who has denounced the protest organizers and warned them to quit the protests, was willing to engage them in a dialogue.
“They asked to meet the prime minister, and he agreed to meet with the organizers,” Arinc was quoted by Turkish news agencies as telling reporters in Ankara.
The protesters initially mobilized against the destruction of the park in Taksim Square, the center of Istanbul, to make way for a shopping complex. They later widened their grievances into a broad rebuke of what they consider the authoritarian style of the prime minister and his Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Three people have been reported killed and more than 2,300 injured as the protests spread to about 60 cities across the country and protesters clashed with the police, reported the New York Times.
Erdogan earlier began to lose his patience and ordered police to "intervene" with protesters across the nation.
He has faced international condemnation for his handling of the unrest in Turkey, a NATO member and key strategic partner in the region for the United States and other Western allies.
The EU on Friday called for a “swift” probe into police violence in the clashes, but Erdogan hit back, saying those involved in a similar protest would in any European country “face a harsher response.”
The prime minister has rejected claims that he is a “dictator” and has also accused social media of playing a major part in the protests against his government.