THE WORLDPOST
06/25/2013 01:44 am ET Updated Aug 24, 2013

Obama, Erdogan Discuss Turkish Protests

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President Barack Obama spoke to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan about the importance of free expression, following days of violence in anti-government demonstrations.

The two leaders on Monday also discussed Syria, and the need to provide more support to rebels both sides support, after Washington signaled it was ready to provide military aid to fighters battling President Bashar al-Assad.

The White House said in a statement that Erdogan described the situation in Turkey, where a sit-in to save Gezi Park near Istanbul's main Taksim Square prompted a brutal police response on May 31.

"The two leaders discussed the importance of nonviolence and of the rights to free expression and assembly and a free press," the statement said.

The two governments had previously exchanged sharp words over the violence, with Washington expressing concern at "excessive" police tactics and Ankara rejecting criticism of his handling of the violence.

Obama has spent considerable time as president courting Erdogan, who is seen as a key US ally in the Middle East, but has been accused by domestic opponents for becoming increasingly authoritarian.

Some analysts believe Washington was taken by surprise by the violence, since it erupted just a few weeks after Obama gave Erdogan a warm welcome at the White House.

The White House statement said the leaders also discussed Syria "including the regime's use of chemical weapons against its own people."

The conversation, which several officials described as lengthy, also focused on a shared US-Turkish "commitment to pursuing a political solution (and) the need to provide additional support to the opposition.

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