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White House Urges Turkey To Respect Protester Rights, Welcomes Apology For Violent Crackdown

On Tuesday, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden called on Turkey’s government to respect demonstrators’ right to protest as demonstration continued across the country Wednesday for the sixth straight day. The vice president made his remarks before the American-Turkish Council:

“Turkey’s future belongs to the people of Turkey and no one else. But the United States does not pretend to be indifferent to the outcome,” Biden said. Countries with open societies, political systems and economies, democratic institutions and a firm commitment to universal human rights are the countries that will thrive and be the most powerful countries of the 21st century, he said.

“Today’s Turkey has a chance to demonstrate that there’s no need to choose between economic advancement and democracy, the system that empowers the winners of elections and yet protects those who are in the opposition,” said Biden.

The protests began in response to the uprooting of trees in a popular square in Istanbul. Turkey’s Islamist government plans to raze a popular square and park in favor of new buildings .

A day earlier, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister apologized for the police’s violent response that injured thousands and killed two. Bulent Arinc said the impetus for the protests were “just and legitimate” and condemned police’s “excessive use of force.” Though Arinc’s statement was reportedly infuriated Erdogan, it was welcomed by White House spokesman Jay Carney:

“We hope that as we have made clear that the Turkish government will handle this in a way that respects the rights of free speech and assembly that are elemental to democracies. And we welcome the deputy prime minister’s comments apologizing for excessive force and we continue to welcome calls for these events to be investigated…”

Erdogan himself has refused to apologize, dismissing protesters’ accusations that he is a “dictator” and calling them “arm-in-arm with terrorists.”

[Photo: Cüneyt Güçlü / Youtube]