Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoganAFP/File

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday said that plans to develop an Istanbul park are on hold and that the message from protesters has been received, Bloomberg reports.

Erdogan said there will be no redevelopment of Gezi Park in Taksim Square, where protesters have been gathered for more than two weeks, until a court rules on the issue, and after that only if the plan is approved in a public vote.

Speaking at a meeting with officials from his party in Ankara, the premier urged the demonstrators to leave the park today, saying that would enable police to tackle “illegal groups” that have become involved.

The unrest has presented Erdogan with one of his biggest challenges since he took office more than 10 years ago, as protesters denounce what they say is the pro-Islamist leader’s autocratic style. The spectacle of tens of thousands marching in Istanbul and the capital Ankara, and police using tear gas, water cannons and truncheons against them, has battered Turkish stocks and bonds.

Erdogan met late on Thursday for four hours with a group including two representatives of Taksim Solidarity, which has spoken on behalf of the protesters who have filled Istanbul’s central square for the past two weeks, the official Anatolia news agency said. It was Erdogan’s first contact with the Solidarity group since the protests escalated on May 31 and spread to other cities.

Taksim Solidarity will announce its decision about the protest at a press conference tomorrow morning, CNN Turk reported.

At least four people have died in clashes since May 31. The Turkish Medical Association says almost 7,500 have sought medical treatment.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)