Defiant Erdogan demands immediate end to Turkish protests as he makes return to country

Returning to Istanbul Erdogan called for the protests to end immediately and said they bordered on illegality

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The Independent Online

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made a defiant speech calling for an end to protests in the country as thousands of anti-government activists began another rally in Istanbul's Taksim Square.

Returning to Istanbul Erdogan called for the protests to end immediately and said they bordered on illegality.

"These protests that are bordering on illegality must come to an end as of now," he said.

An estimated 10,000 supporters of the AKP party were at the airport for the Prime Minister's return home in the early hours of this morning.

In comments to journalists, Erdogan called week-long protests undemocratic and an attempt by a "minority" group to "dominate" over his majority.

Erdogan said: "If we were to remain indifferent in the face of such a thing, the 50 percent who voted for (the ruling party) would tomorrow ask me why."

Mr Erdogan's airport comments were at odds with earlier remarks that had suggested a softening approach towards the protestors.

Protesters from all walks of life have occupied Taksim Square and its park, objecting to what they say is Mr Erdogan's increasingly autocratic and arrogant manner of governing - claims he vehemently denies.

His words were at times almost drowned out by his supporters. "God is Great," they chanted, and soon moved on to slogans referring specifically to the protesters in Taksim Square.

"Let us go, let us smash them," they shouted. "Istanbul is here, where are the looters?"

Mr Erdogan had initially referred to the protesters as looters and troublemakers, while also acknowledging that excessive police force might have been used, and promising it would be investigated.

On his return to Istanbul, his speech, delivered from atop an open-air bus outside the airport terminal, appeared at first to be an attempt to strike a unifying note.

"They say I am the prime minister of only 50%. It's not true. We have served the whole of the 76 million from the east to the west," he said at the airport, referring to his election win in 2011, when he took 50% of the vote.

"Together we are Turkey. Together we are brothers. We have never endeavoured to break hearts. We are in favour of mending hearts."

But he soon became more combative.

"We have never been for building tension and polarisation. But we cannot applaud brutality," he said.

In his last speech in Tunisia before flying to Istanbul, Mr Erdogan said identified terrorist groups were involved in the protests.

In a twist, he implied that bankers were also part of a conspiracy that was fuelling the protests. He added that the fans of dissent had been fanned by other groups too.

"Those who call themselves journalists, artists, politicians, have, in a very irresponsible way, opened the way for hatred, discrimination and provocation," he said.

Additional reporting by Associated Press