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Turkey may call referendum on Gezi Park, says ruling AK party

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AK party says the Turkish government might call a referendum to decide whether to proceed with controversial plans to develop Istanbul’s Gezi Park.

Turkey may allow the public to decide what happens to Gezi Park, the Istanbul green space threatened by controversial redevelopment plans that have sparked two weeks of protests.

The “gesture of goodwill” should encourage protesters to leave the park and other areas they’re occupying, said the ruling AK party’s deputy chairman, Huseyin Celik, who made the proposal on Wednesday after a meeting with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“The prime minister said that since we want to know what the people think, we can bring the option of a referendum to the concerned bodies,” Celik said, adding that only Istanbul residents would be eligible to take part.

More from GlobalPost: Police crackdown on Taksim Square draws mixed reviews 

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He gave no other details of how or when the referendum would be organized, however, and some activists were skeptical that any vote would take place. A group of academics, students and artists that met with Erdogan on Wednesday in hopes of mediating between the government and protesters said that the proposal was not raised during their talks.

In any case a referendum on the park would not address what has become, for many protesters, the larger issue: the police’s response to demonstrations, which they say was unnecessarily violent and should earn its organizers punishment.

Four people, including one policeman, have been killed since protests began and thousands more injured.

Celik warned on Wednesday: “Those… who seek to provoke and remain in the park will face the police.”

Protesters remained in the park and nearby Taksim Square late into Wednesday night, withno clashes reported. A group of opposition lawmakers have stationed themselves in Gezi to attempt to prevent officers intervening, according to the BBC.