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Protesters In Turkey Prepare For Prime Minister's Return

Thousands of anti-government protesters have assembled in Istanbul's Taksim Square ahead of the return of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan from a four-day trip to Tunisia.

But thousands more Erdogan supporters were gathered at the airport to greet him.

The BBC says Erdogan is expected to give a speech when he arrives in the early morning hours on Friday.

The Associated Press reports that his supporters "thronged the airport for his arrival, chanting 'We are with you, Erdogan,' in the first major public show of backing for the prime minister since the protests began last week."

What started as a peaceful protest against plans to redevelop a park in Taksim Square has blossomed into nationwide protests that are more broadly about dissatisfaction with the Erdogan government.

In an effort to assuage tensions, Erdogan's deputy, Bulent Arinc, apologized on Tuesday for "the use of excessive force" against protesters, which has inflamed their anger. Bulent called the protesters' treatment at the hands of police "unfair."

However, in a sign that investors are leery of Erdogan's ability to calm the situations, Turkey's main stock market lost 8 percent on Thursday.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.