Turkish President Abdullah Gul has stated that he gave several warnings that the Gezi protests, which began at the end of May in protest against government plans for the redevelopment of Gezi Park in İstanbul's Taksim Square, would damage Turkey's image, and that now many in the US, where he traveled to attend the UN General Assembly meeting, were asking him about the situation in Turkey after the protests Today`s Zaman reported.
Speaking to journalists in New York on Thursday, Gul said: "I had warned several times before that the Gezi protests would have damaging effects on Turkey's image. Presidents, journalists, writers and investors all ask, even in brief talks, what is going on in Turkey. I had meetings with bankers and financial experts. Stating that I knew the question on their minds, I explained the situation to them."
On Monday, answering questions about the Gezi protests raised by American journalists at a breakfast meeting hosted by Merrill Lynch -- the investment banking and wealth management division of Bank of America -- President Gul stated: "Actually, I can even feel proud about the start of these and similar incidents. The reason I feel proud is that those who are familiar with Turkey know what kind of news about Turkey was brought to the world's attention 10 or 15 years ago, or they know what Turkey's problems were in that period. And look at what Turkey's problems are now. The events in İstanbul started with environmentalist concerns, just as it starts in Washington, London and New York. The incidents in İstanbul began with concerns over whether a building was appropriate in a certain place [referring to the construction of the Topcu Barracks, which was the primary reason for the protests in Taksim]."
Commenting on how the Gezi protests were reflected in the international press, Gul said, "International television paid too much attention to the Gezi protests." Gul maintained some observers connected the Gezi protests with other turmoil in the Middle East, particularly the protests in Egypt that happened after a military coup removed democratically elected President Mohammed Morsi. "People link [the Gezi protests and protests in Egypt] in their minds," Gul added.
Stating that such problems are those of developed and democratic countries, Gul said the demonstrations were not related to serious unemployment problems, serious human rights violations, dictatorship or authoritarianism; the demonstrations started due to reasons that can also be seen in Washington or New York. "Thus, I am proud to see how far Turkey has come today," Gul added.
In response to criticism of the police's actions during the Gezi protests, Gul said if hundreds of people gathered and burned tires on Fifth Avenue in New York, saying, "We are blocking this road," the New York police would behave the same way the İstanbul police did during the Gezi protests.
'There is no risk of political instability in Turkey'
Gul told journalists that one frequently asked question is about the risk of political instability during the upcoming presidential elections in Turkey. "I explained that there will be three, not one, elections in two years, and do not worry, each of them is scheduled. There is no political risk in Turkey," Gul said. Recalling that a constitutional amendment on the presidential election has been made, Gul stated that there have been no problems with the basic principles of the elections. Gul also added that work on constitutional amendments to define the rights and responsibilities of the president are continuing.
Gul denied some news circulating in the Turkish media about his meeting with Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish Islamic scholar and the leader of the Hizmet movement. "I read the claims in a newspaper. What can I say? We know how some news is written. There was no such meeting," Gul said.
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