Istanbul’s Taksim Square overnight

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On Tuesday, Turkish police carried out two assaults on protesters in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, the centre of 13 days of nationwide demonstrations challenging the Erdogan Government.

Riot police moved into the square, initially the site of protests against the Government’s plans to re-develop nearby Gezi Park, in the morning with tear gas and water cannon and renewed operations last night from about 8:20 p.m .

Security forces surrounded all roads leading to the square after clearing, chasing some demonstrators in side streets. The Governor of Istanbul Province claimed the operation was a response “marginal groups” who attacked the police in front of the Atatürk Cultural Center.

“I plead with citizens at the site to separate themselves from this marginal group and abandon the square. It is important that our demand is carried out for everyone’s security,” Hüseyin Avni Mutlu wrote.

Crowds had started to fill the square in response to a call from the Taksim Solidarity Platform for a 7 p.m. rally.

Police also moved briefly into Gezi Park during Tuesday, sparking fears that protesters there would also be attacked and forced to disperse.

In the capital Ankara, security forces moved against thousands of protesters for a fourth day in Kizilay Square. Police used tear gas and water cannon about 12:20 a.m. on Wednesday in an attempt to disperse the demonstrators.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan maintained his defiance, despite reports earlier this week that he would meet leaders of the demonstrations: “Violent actions that took place in many cities of Turkey have camouflaged themselves behind the Gezi Park protests. I request all activists to see the big picture, understand the plot, and withdraw from the streets.”

Erdogan asked MPs of his Justice and Development Party, “What were we supposed to do? Kneel in front of these people and ask them remove the banners? How would those illegal rags be removed from public buildings?”

The co-leader of the opposition BDP, Selahattin Demirtaş, criticised the Government: “They are acting as if [Prime Minister Prime Minister Erdogan] is the temple of democracy, and every slogan chanted at him is an insult to democracy.”

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Turkey: Istanbul’s Taksim Square Tonight

The BBC’s Jeremy Bowen reports on the scene:

Turkey: Lawyers Protest Treatment of Colleagues by Police

Thousands of black-robed lawyers walked out of courthouses in Ankara and Istanbul on Wednesday, protesting treatment of attorneys by police amid anti-government protests.

“Lawyers can’t be dragged on the ground!” lawyers shouted in rhythm as they marched out of an Istanbul courthouse. Riot police, carrying shields, watched.

Turkey’s Human Rights Foundation said the Istanbul Public Prosecutor’s office had launched an investigation into allegations of excessive use of police force during the protests. It claimed 620 people, including a one-year-old baby, were injured during operations by security forces on Tuesday and Wednesday, with about 70 people detained.

Turkey: President Calls For Dialogue With Protesters

Taking a conciliatory line in contrast to Prime Minister Erdogan, President Abdullah Gul has said, “I am hopeful that we will surmount this [situation] through democratic maturity. If [the protesters] have objections, we need to hear them, enter into a dialogue. It is our duty to lend them an ear.”

Turkey: Video of Police Tear-Gassing of Taksim Square on Tuesday

Libya and Tunisia: Oil Deal Agreed

Libya has agreed to provide Tunisia with 450,000 barrels of oil per month at preferential rates from August until the end of 2013, and then 650,000 barrels of a month during 2014.

The deal was signed on Wednesday in Tripoli by Libya’s Oil and Gas Minister Abdulbari Al-Arusi and Tunisian Industry Minister Mahdi Jumaa.

Libya has also agreed to take a stake in a proposed $2-billion Tunisian oil refinery in Skhira the Gulf of Gabes. A joint working group will study the feasibility of providing Libyan oil as feedstock to the refinery, building a link from Libyan oilfields to the Trapsa oil pipeline.

The working group will also produce feasibility studies on a 260-kilometre gas pipeline from Libya’s Mellitah gas complex, west of Zawia, to Gabes in Tunisia.

Turkey: Taksim Square This Morning

From Derek Stoffel of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation:

Egypt: Artists Clash With President’s Supporters

Protesting against the influence of Islamists in the Ministry of Culture, artists and activists clashed with religious supporters of President Mohamed Morsi on Tuesday, injuring several people.

Prominent filmmakers, writers and performers have camped out at the ministry for days, accusing the Minister of Culture Alaa Abdel-Aziz of sacking officials to fill key posts with his allies.

On Tuesday, riot police intervened to separate the protesters from hundreds of Islamists who gathered on the other side of the street. The two sides shouted slogans at each other until parts of each crowd moved away to a nearby bridge and started fighting with stones and sticks.

The Ministry of Health said three policemen and several members of the crowd were wounded.