Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he was ready to die to defend democracy and attacked the main opposition party for inciting protesters, after demonstrations flared up again throughout the country.
Protesters have fought with police in several cities since a demonstrator was killed at a rally in the southern city of Antakya against plans to build a highway through forest land in Ankara. The unrest echoed the nationwide protests against Erdogan’s government in June that led to at least five deaths and hundreds of arrests amid a police crackdown.
Erdogan defended police tactics, which have again involved widespread use of tear gas and plastic bullets. He said the Republican People’s Party and its lawmakers have been “provoking” young protesters to stir up chaos, and rejected allegations that he’s a dictator, pointing to three election victories and a revived economy.
The prime minister said his government would announce new reforms next week, including measures to meet demands from the Alevi religious minority
Erdogan also raised doubts over a Russian plan for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to surrender its chemical arms, an initiative that has been accepted by the U.S., which has put military action against Syria on hold. Turkey had supported strikes against Assad’s government and pledged to join any international coalition against him.
Assad “must pay” for the more than 100,000 deaths in Syria’s 2 1/2-year civil war, Erdogan said. He reaffirmed support for military action, and said Turkey is “doubtful about promises on chemical weapons.”