Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan flew back to a Turkey rocked by days of anti-government unrest on Friday and declared before a sea of flag-waving supporters at Istanbul airport: "These protests must end immediately."
"No power but God can stop Turkey's rise," he told thousands who gathered in the early hours to greet him in the first pro-Erdogan rally since demonstrations began a week ago.
Supporters of Erdogan chanted "don't test our patience" and "Istanbul is here" and waved the Turkish flag – a white crescent moon and star on a red background – and the banner of the AKP, the image of a light bulb.
Speaking from an open-top bus at the airport, his wife at his side, Erdogan acknowledged police might have used excessive force in crushing a small demonstration against a building project last Friday – the action that triggered nationwide protests against his 10-year-old rule.
"However, no-one has the right to attack us through this. May God preserve our fraternity and unity. We will have nothing to do with fighting and vandalism...The secret to our success is not tension and polarization."
"The police are doing their duty. These protests, which have turned into vandalism and utter lawlessness must end immediately," Erdogan told the crowd.
He gave no indication of any immediate plans to remove the makeshift protest camps that have appeared on Taksim Square and Gezi Park in the capital, Ankara. But the gatherings mark a clear challenge to his declarations.
Turkey must investigate whether police used excessive force in a crackdown on days of anti-government demonstrations and hold those responsible to account, European Union enlargement commissioner Stefan Fuele said Friday.
"Peaceful demonstrations constitute a legitimate way for ... groups to express their views in a democratic society. Excessive use of force by police against these demonstrations has no place in such a democracy," Fuele said in a speech at a conference attended by Erdogan.
"I am happy that even the government admitted that. What is important now, is not only to launch a swift and transparent investigation but also to bring those responsible to account."
At Istanbul's Taksim Square, center of the protests now occupied by thousands around the clock, some chanted "Tayyip resign" as they watched a broadcast of the address. In the capital Ankara, the Kugulu Park echoed to anti-government slogans, while protesters danced or sang the national anthem.
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