June 1, 2013
The Foreign Office is advising against all but essential travel to parts of Turkey in the light of anti-government demonstrations. Britons have been warned not to get involved in the protests.
The travel advice was changed on Saturday, with the message on the Foreign Office website reading: “Demonstrations are taking place in Istanbul and in other cities across Turkey, including Ankara. Police are using tear gas and water cannons in response. We advise British nationals to avoid all demonstrations.”
The demonstrations are into a second day. Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called for them to end but indicated the government would press ahead with redevelopment plans that sparked the protests in the first place.
Speaking in a televised address, he said police would break down the protests at a main square in Istanbul. He added that officers may have used tear gas excessively and that this would be investigated.
The protests grew out of anger at heavy-handed police tactics on Friday to break up a peaceful sit-in by people trying to protect a park in Istanbul’s main Taksim square from government plans to revamp the area. Officials have said the plans include building a shopping centre and the reconstruction of a former Ottoman army barracks.
The park demonstration turned into a wider protest against Mr Erdogan, who is seen as becoming increasingly authoritarian, and spread to other Turkish cities despite a court decision to temporarily halt the demolition of the park.
More than 2,500,000 British nationals visit Turkey every year, according to the Foreign Office.