“The double standards are glaring. If you’re in NATO you can actually get away with murder and Erdogan has been emboldened by that,” believes British journalist Neil Clark. RT: We’ve been seeing some violent images coming from Istanbul’s Taksim Square. What’s driving this move by the authorities? Neil Clark: I think, Erdogan feels emboldened really to act in a very harsh way against the protesters, and he’s emboldened because he’s a member of NATO and a US ally. It’s very interesting to see how muted the criticism has been in the past week in the west. William Hague for example has been silent and the French have been silent. And I think this emboldens Erdogan to clamp down harshly on protesters, putting the water cannons and the police, the plastic bullets, etc…Just imagine if the scenes that we saw in Taksim last night happened in Minsk. Just imagine people protesting against President Lukashenko in Belarus and the army and police clamped down in such a brutal matter. We would have William Hague saying Belarus is going to be reported to the UN Security Council and cause more sanctions on Belarus. The double standards are glaring. If you’re in NATO you can get away with murder, and Erdogan has been emboldened by that. RT: Mixed signals came from Istanbul too, with Erdogan’s deputy saying he wanted to meet with the protesters and the protesters hoping that something could be sorted amicably. Then why this use of force instead of talks? NC: I think, Erdogan feels there’s no pressure on him to actually negotiate with the protesters. Why should he, he is thinking, because he’s got the backing of NATO and the US. The US will do everything to stop him from falling from power. That’s a very important factor. The other thing of course, elections aren’t due in Turkey for two more years. The opposition is divided. So he thinks he’s in a very strong position. RT: Is a compromise possible at this stage between the protesters and the government? NC: I think the problem is the opposition is disunited. And Erdogan feels in a strong position because the US is very happy with what he is doing in Turkey, in particular in relation to Syria where Turkey has played a leading role in the destabilization of Syria. And so he feels confident that he will stay in power. He doesn’t need to give up too muc, this is the problem. As I said if this was happening in Belarus, there would be enormous pressure put on the Belarus government to make concessions, to meet with the opposition, to accede to their demands, but that’s not happening to Erdogan, I’m afraid. RT: How divided is the Turkish public? NC: Very divided. On the issue of Syria for instance we’ve got a huge majority, 70-80 per cent totally reject his policy on Syria. He’s brought the war to Turkey, there’s been bomb attacks in Turkey because of the aggressive policies. On issue after issue he’s done the opposite of what he said in 2011. Although he was democratically elected two years ago, he’s actually stuck two fingers up at the Turkish people, and that’s why there’s so much anger against him now. RT: Are these protests like an Arab Spring, or have they more in common with Europe’s anti-austerity demonstrations? NC: Well, we’re not supposed to call it a Turkish spring, are we, because the Arab spring is only supposed to happen in countries where the US wants the government to fall. And therefore we’ve had reports on the BBC saying why it’s not the Turkish spring. Of course, it’s a Turkish spring, and it’s not meant to happen here, because Turkey is a loyal NATO ally. I think that these protests will continue and they really show the hypocrisy of the western powers because if it was happening in Iran, for example, the government would be forced to resign. There’s no course for the government to resign or even for them to negotiate with the opposition. So I think it is a Turkish spring.
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