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CONNECT THE WORLD
Syrian Rebels Temporarily Take Over Syrian-Israel Crossing; Turkish Prime Minister Due Home Today; Vladimir Putin, Wife Announce Divorce; White House Defends Phone Record Collection; Prince Phillip To Undergo Exploratory Surgery
Aired June 6, 2013 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: Live from Istanbul, I'm Becky Anderson.
Defiant today despite a seventh day of mass protests against him. Turkey's prime minister says plans to redevelop a park will go ahead as he makes his way home from a North Africa trip.
Plus, tensions escalate in the Golan Heights as fears grow the Syrian conflict is spilling over.
And Prince Phillip is headed to hospital straight after attending this garden party at Buckingham Palace.
I take you to London first tonight. Britain's Prince Phillip has been admitted to hospital for an exploratory operation. Buckingham Palace says the queen's husband could stay in hospital for up to two weeks.
Let's go straight to my colleague Max Foster in London now for more on this developing story.
Max, what do we know?
MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Becky, he wasn't rushed to hospital, but he had gotten tests back following some abdominal investigations. And as a result of that he was taken to hospital. And he is going to have an operation. And he's going to have that operation tomorrow unless the medial advice changes and he will be under general anesthetic.
So he's over 90 years old, this is serious stuff. And we're not being given much more information about what's wrong with him. And we're being asked not to speculate about it either. But he is in hospital tonight. And he did walk in comfortably.
But there's a great deal of concern about him, because he is of this age. He's had a series of illnesses in recent times, but none of them are linked to what's going on here. Earlier this week, he had canceled engagements, but that was because he lost his voice. So this is separate from that.
And the palace is saying he's going to be in probably for about two weeks. And if they're saying that at this point, they're actually saying he's going to be in for quite some time.
Normally, they would say he'll be in for some investigations and he may be out in a few days, but to say it's two weeks they're obviously are rather concerned here. But at the moment, he is well and in good spirits, it just depends on how this operation goes and whether or not he has to be brought forward.
ANDERSON: Yeah, all right Max, thank you for that. And as the palace says, they're asking people not to speculate on his health. Of course here at CNN as we get any more information, we will bring it to you.
Max Foster out of London for you.
We're in Turkey for you tonight with a special addition of Connect the World. Protesters back on the streets for a seventh day as the country's controversial prime minister prepares to return home shortly.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan is due to fly in from Tunisia possibly at this hour after spending four days in North Africa while his country convulsed in anti-government demonstrations.
Now Mr. Erdogan is refusing to back down on what is a controversial plan to develop the popular park which is just below me here in Istanbul which sparked what has been countrywide protests.
Earlier Thursday, Prime Minister Erdogan told reporters in Tunis that members of what he calls a terrorist organization are taking part in these demonstrations. Well, my colleague Ivan Watson is waiting Mr. Erdogan's expected return at Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul. And he joins us live from there -- Ivan.
IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Becky. We're at Istanbul airport waiting for the Turkish prime minister to return from Tunisia in a couple of hours. There are already several dozen flag waving supporters of the prime minister waving the flags of the Justice and Development Party here. You may hear them chanting in the background.
Now I'm joined by Ambassador Volkan Bozkir. He is a member of parliament from the Justice and Development Party and also chairman of the foreign relations committee.
This has been an unprecedented crisis in Turkey in the past decade. What is the strategy out? What is the best way out of this mess?
VOLKAN BOZKIR, TURKISH PARLIAMENT FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: Well, in a democratic country it's normal to have demonstrations, meetings, protest against the government. And I think that's what's happening in Turkey as well. This happens in other countries in Spain, in UK, in Germany, in Italy or Greece, this a similar type of a demonstration. So one shouldn't compare it with something else.
But this was of a different nature than other demonstrations in Turkey, because the -- it doesn't have a leader. It wasn't a meeting prepared by the opposition...
WATSON: Very spontaneous.
BOZKIR: So spontaneous. A group of people who are unhappy with a new project in Taksim suddenly came together and I think also the police and the administration was surprised, so they reacted more than necessarily. And a group of 50 became 100 next day and with some more interventions it enlarged itself.
WATSON: We've seen some very clearly excessive use of police force. I've seen old ladies hit by water cannons. We've also seen demonstrators burning cars and attacking police. So how to reduce the tensions now? Your government has apologized to the protesters. And it has met with leaders of the opposition. But the prime minister does tend to refer to these demonstrators as (inaudible) riffraff. So is this a case of good cop, bad cop?
BOZKIR: No. We have to first separate the demonstrators into two parts. There are innocent just environment seeking parts of that group and those who have just joined the group with some terroristic intentions who had also done similar things attacking the police or government buildings. Normal people, ordinary civilians don't have the capacity to fight with the police.
So these second group was the ones who (inaudible) the very innocent demonstrations.
So the police actually fought with the second type.
WATSON: That you refer to as terrorists.
BOZKIR: Well, there is a terrorist group also involved who was a part of the bombing of the U.S. embassy.
WATSON: But there are also football fans.
BOZKIR: There are football -- I mean, these are from the first group I have mentioned. But it has been joined by radical groups who actually were experienced in these kind of events. So what we have done is we apologized from the first group, which is the innocent environment seeking youngsters who have some complaints about the government policies. And the police reaction against the first group was, I think, overdone.
WATSON: Let me ask you one final question...
BOZKIR: What we are...
WATSON: I have to cut you off. Do you expect to hear an apology from the prime minister himself to that first group?
BOZKIR: Well, apology has been said by the acting prime minister. He's coming in an hour. So I think for the first group he has done that in Tunisia.
WATSON: So Prime Minister Erdogan...
BOZKIR: But he has separated to two groups. We will not apologize from the group that has a habit of attacking the police and government offices. It's the same thing in any democratic country.
WATSON: Thank you, ambassador.
So, again, the government referring to, and the ruling party referring to two groups, peaceful demonstrators and terrorists and the deputy prime minister has apologized to what the government considers to be the peaceful demonstrators.
Back to you, Becky.
ANDERSON: All right, Ivan, thank you for that.
Well, I want to get you a shot -- what you're looking at now are thousands and thousands of people in Taksim Square this evening, throngs of people. I can't tell you exactly who they are, because there are a myriad of different groups out there. You can see flags. You can see banners out there. But that is the scene as we speak.
The Gezi Park demonstrators tend to be to the left of the group that you can see.
All right. Well, that is the picture out here tonight. It is very peaceful, I've got to say, as we speak. Erdogan, we believe, will be back in the country within a couple of hours. And if we do hear anything from him this evening, of course, we will bring it to you over the next 50 minutes here on Connect the World.
Join the conversation. Tweet me @BeckyCNN wherever you are in the world. What is your reaction to the Turkish prime minister's apparent defiance. Mr. Erdogan digging in on controversial development plans.
Note to demonstrators @BeckyCNN or head to Facebook to join the conversation. Facebook.com/CNNconnect.
Many more to come from Turkey tonight, including my interview with the man behind the letter that's been causing waves across Turkish social media.
Also ahead, an uproar over government spying. The White House defends an order to secretly collect the phone records of millions of Americans, that's straight ahead.
The battle for Syria spills into the Golan Heights. We'll see how Israel is responding to fighting just across the border.
All that coming up. Stay with us.
ANDERSON: You're watching CNN. This is Connect the World with me, Becky Anderson. Welcome back. We're in Istanbul for you this evening watching developments here. Meanwhile, fighting in the Golan Heights is deepening fears that the Syrian civil war maybe spreading.
Rebels briefly seized Quneitra today, the only crossing in the demilitarized zone between Syria and Israel. Now Syrian troops have now regained control, but there is already major fallout. Austria pulling its troops from a UN peacekeeping mission patrolling the area saying the threat has become, and I quote, unacceptable.
All these developments have Israel on high alert. Elise Labott filed a report a short time ago from the Israeli controlled side of the Golan.
ELISE LABOTT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Things are really heating up here on the Israeli-Syrian border. The Syrian side of the border erupted on Thursday after Syrian rebels fighting government forces briefly took the Quneitra border crossing with Israel. We could hear mortar fire, gunfire and tank fire along the border all day long.
This is a very important symbolic location as the Assad regime used it to show its control of the Golan. Quneitra was captured by Israel in the 1967 war. It was recaptured briefly by Syria forces in October of 1973. And after the disengagement agreement between Israel and Syria after the war, it was returned to Syria, but the border crossing is now patrolled by United Nations peacekeeping forces. Regime forces on Thursday quickly regained the border crossing after moving tanks close to the demarcation line with Israel, which prompted complaints to the United Nations.
Two UN peacekeepers manning the border were injured. The fighting caused Austria to withdraw its 370 plus peacekeepers.
Now sporadic gunfire continues along the border. Some mortar rounds and gunfire has reached the Israeli side of the border. The Israeli army tanks have taken up positions along the border. And the Israeli army says it will take all necessary precautions to make sure that the fighting does not spill over.
Elise Labott, CNN, on the Israeli side of the Syrian border of the Golan Heights.
ANDERSON: Well, today's fighting in the Golan comes just a week after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad suggested there could be a -- and I quote -- new front in his country's civil war.
In an interview with Hezbollah's television station, he said recent Israeli airstrikes are stirring up public anger, fueling calls for Syria to retake the Golan Heights.
Al-Assad said, and I quote, there's clear popular pressure to open the Golan front to resistance. This enthusiasm is also on the Arab level. We have received many Arab delegations wanting to know how young people might be enrolled to come and fight Israel.
Well, let's get some perspective now on all of these developments. We're joined by regular guest on this show Fawaz Gerges, director of the Middle East center at the London School of Economics currently in Washington for you live out of there this evening.
How significant do you believe today's fighting in the Golan is? More evidence that the Syrian war is spreading do you think?
FAWAZ GERGES, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: Well, you know, Becky this is not the first time you have armed clashes on the Golan Heights. The Golan Heights basically is intensifying. And remember, Becky, at the beginning of the crisis what the Syrian president said in an interview. He said if his regime is targeted, the entire region would be affected. The Syrian fire would devour neighboring states. He said that Afghanistan would pale by comparison with the Syrian crisis.
The fire has spread to neighboring states. After Israeli strikes -- this is not the first time when he told Hezbollah's television station -- President Assad said he would activate the Golan Heights, basically because it was quiet for the last -- since the late 1960s. And he said he would turn the Golan Heights into another southern Lebanon.
This would be, of course, Israel's nightmare. This would represent a major strategic predicament for Israel. And what you're seeing in the Golan Heights today is basically is a very alarming signs for the spreading, the overall spreading of the Syrian conflict into neighboring countries.
ANDERSON: Is this what you believe he means when he said that he will open -- or Syria could open a new front in the Golan, then?
GERGES: Absolutely. He meant every word. After the Israeli strikes on Syria in the last few weeks.
He said not only Syria would retaliate the next time by attacking Israel itself, but he said basically he would allow Syrians and Palestinians and Arab fighters to come to the Golan Heights and resist the Irsaeli occupation of the Golan Heights in the same way that Hezbollah basically has turned southern Lebanon. The Lebanese-Israeli border into a nightmare for Israel.
And even the leader of Hezbollah backing, Hassan Nasrallah said that Hezbollah is ready and willing to get engaged in the struggle, in the resistance struggles in the Golan Heights.
What you see is also that basically Israel made a decision to strike Syria. And this particular decision has been very costly. And that's why Israeli leaders are extremely anxious.
To be blunt, Becky, Israel finds itself between a rock and a hard place. It is very suspicious of the radical elements among the armed resistance, of the armed opposition inside Syria and it's also very anxious about the organic links, the new alliance, the new strong, close alliance between Assad and Hezbollah. And that's why the tensions in the Golan Heights are very alarming on multiple levels.
ANDERSON: All right.
Very briefly, I want you then to characterize this relationship between Hezbollah and the Syrian regime and whether you believe we should expect to see them continuing to fight alongside Syrian army personnel?
GERGES: Becky, I have no doubt in my mind that there is no daylight between Hezbollah and the Assad government now. Both President Assad and Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, have made it very clear the Syrian battle is the real battle. They're all fighting a battle for the survival of Syria and the axis of resistance. And that's why Hezbollah's engagement inside Syria is strategic, not tactical. And we are seeing now strategic implications of this particular alliance in particular in Qusayr, you will see major changes on the battlefield (inaudible) inside Syria and the next few fronts, in particular if the conflict in Syria continues as I believe it will.
ANDERSON: Fawaz, always a pleasure. Thank you for joining us.
Fawaz Gerges out of Washington for you this evening.
Live from Istanbul, this is Connect the World. I'm Becky Anderson.
We're keeping an eye on the health of Prince Phillip for you this hour. He's been admitted to hospital in London for a, quote, exploratory operation. We will, of course, bring you the very latest developments on that throughout the hour.
And a narrow escape for Germany's historic center of Dresden as flood waters course down Europe swollen rivers.
Back in 90 seconds.
ANDERSON: Turn to the developing news on Britain's Prince Phillip for you. In the last couple of hours, we've learned that he has been admitted to hospital for an exploratory operation. This is the queen's husband, of course. He was taken to a London clinic following abdominal investigations. Buckingham Palace says that he could stay in hospital for up to two weeks. We will of course keep you updated on this story as we get more information on it.
Now the death toll from record flood waters in central Europe has risen to 15. Cities in eastern Germany bore the brunt of the surge today with water peaking in Dresden and Meissen. In a visit to the flood threatened town of Weitefeld, German Chancellor Angela Merkel praised the solidarity of tens of thousands of people affected by the floods.
U.S. phone company Verizon has handed over the records for millions of its customers to the national security agency. The news first broke in the British newspaper The Guardian -- excuse me. Civil liberties experts are calling it a major privacy breach.
Dan Lothian joining me now live from Washington for more on this.
Firstly, Dan, what information are we talking about here?
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, first of all, I think a lot of people when they hear this kind of story, this order, they believe that their conversations are being listened to. And officials here at the White House and across the administration are stressing that no voice messages, no conversations, were part of this. That what we're talking about here is what's described as metadata. So you get the information on a number, or how long the call was. You can get the information of where the call was placed from or who was on the other end of that call, or the number on the other end of that call, but again no conversations.
And officials, again, also stressing that this is a tool -- while they won't confirm specifically or even deny this particular order, they say in general this is a tool that counterterrorism officials have relied on in order to essentially connect the dots that may lead back to a terrorist or may give additional information about who might be helping out a terrorist.
The FBI was the agency that actually requested this order. FBI officials not commenting at all. But today, Attorney General Eric Holder did get some tough questions. He was up on Capitol Hill testifying in an unrelated hearing. When he was asked by one lawmaker about whether or not this was evidence that the U.S. was listening in on the conversations of lawmakers in congress, or listening in on the conversations of judges on the Supreme Court. Take a listen to how he responded to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: With all due respect, senator, I don't think this is an appropriate setting for me to discuss that issue. I'd be more than glad to come back in a appropriate setting to discuss the issues that you have raised. But in this open forum, I do not...
SEN. MARK KIRK, (R) ILLINOIS: Let me interrupt you and say the correct answer would be say, no we stayed within our lane and I'm assuring you we did not spy on members of congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LOTHIAN: So at that hearing, lawmakers asking for additional briefings, they want to be briefed by officials from the NSA. They want to be briefed by the attorney general. They want to make sure that everything that was done was done within the legal guidelines.
I should point out again that this is something that has had great oversight from congress, both Republicans and Democrats. There is the Justice Department as well that watches over this. The courts that watch over it. So legally they are within the law, but still a lot of questions about whether or not this went too far, Becky.
ANDERSON: Yeah. Interesting. All right, Dan, thank you for that. Dan Lothian in Washington for you.
Well, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his wife say that they have divorced. The couple made the announcement on Russian state television after attending a ballet performance. Married for 30 years, but Putin said it was a joint decision.
Let's get more from my colleague Phil Black in Moscow now.
And Phil, why did they say they were getting divorced?
PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Becky, this is confirmation of something that has really been long suspected, long speculated about. For many years now there have been rumors about the true nature of the marriage between Vladimir Putin and his wife Ludmila basically because she is almost never seen. And now tonight they have come out on state television and confirmed that, yes, they have or undergoing what they describe as a civilized divorce.
The reason, she says she doesn't like publicity. We know that he likes a little bit of that. She doesn't like planes. So they almost never see each other. She says they live very different lives and that's just the way it is now.
So they have decided to divorce. They say it is a joint decision. And in their words they say it is civilized, Becky.
ANDERSON: All right. Phil Black with the very latest out of Moscow for you.
Connecting the world here on CNN. I'm Becky Anderson in Turkey for you this evening with this special addition as we await Turkey's prime minister's arrival here back in the country.
The man at the center of Turkey's storm protests due back home shortly. Ivan Watson is watching for him at the Istanbul airport.
Also, the design students hoping to create a robotic revolution with their state-of-the-art design that can find fine precious metal in rubbish.
And as flood waters peak in Eastern Germany, we're live in Dresden where banks of sandbags are the only thing halting a surge of muddy water from flowing into the historic center.
All that coming up and your headlines, of course, bottom of the hour. Stay with us.
ANDERSON: This is CONNECT THE WORLD. The top stories for you this hour. Turkey's prime minister due to return home from a trip to North Africa shortly. He remains defiant over plans to demolish a popular park here in Istanbul. Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he won't allow demonstrators to hijack his agenda. Protests against his policies have spread across the country.
The husband of Britain's Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip, has been admitted to hospital for what they are calling exploratory operation. Buckingham Palace says the 91-year-old could stay in hospital for up to two weeks. He's being treated at the London Clinic following abdominal investigations.
Austria is pulling out of a UN peacekeeping mission in the Golan Heights after fighting spilled over from Syria. Rebels briefly seized the only crossing in the demilitarized zone between Syria and Israel today. Syrian troops have now regained control.
Russian president Vladimir Putin and his wife say that they have divorced. The couple made the announcement on Russian state television. The Putins said it was a joint decision. They were married for almost 30 years.
Phone records collected by the National Security Agency have been used to stop a terrorist attack, according to the chairman of the US House Intelligence Committee. Mike Rogers isn't providing any more details about the alleged plot. A report in the "Guardian" newspaper says the US phone company Verizon has handed over millions of its customers' records.
Those are your headlines. Let's get back to the story here. Turkey's interior minister is blaming demonstrators for injuries to people and destruction of property.
Muammer Guler says that during the past week, more than 900 people have been hospitalized. Four of them, he says, are in critical condition. He also says more than 500 members of the security forces have been injured during the protests. Overall, about 17 government and ruling party buildings have been damaged, along with more than 100 police weapons and one police station.
Information coming to us from the government, the government puts the amount of the damage at about $40 million.
Well, after only one week, Turkey seems like a changed nation, at least. For more analysis on what the recent events could mean for the future of the country, I'm joined in the CNN Istanbul Bureau by Nigar Goksel -- I hope I've pronounced that correctly -- editor-in-chief of the "Turkish Foreign Policy Quarterly." Thank you for joining me this evening.
Before we talk, let me just have our viewers listen to what the prime minister said today, briefly, during a press conference in Tunis. He is, of course, on his way back here today. He accused protesters of burn-and- destroy tactics. Let's have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, PRIME MINISTER OF TURKEY (through translator): I don't accept that the minority imposes its power on the majority, but I add that nor can we accept to see the majority imposing things on the minority. So, what we are doing now is just protecting the rights of the majority.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: "We are just protecting the rights of the majority," says the prime minister. No conciliatory statements from him. Still condemning what he says are terrorists out here behind us. And yet, we've heard from the president and the deputy prime minister conceding some points --
ANDERSON: -- the AKP that we hear?
NIGAR GOKSEL, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "TURKISH FOREIGN POLICY QUARTERLY": Indeed, the statements coming out of the other figures of that political faction are much more conciliatory than we've heard from the prime minister, and they've actually calmed the tensions to some degree.
But ultimately, the people are looking for what the prime minister himself is going to say, because a lot of this protest is about the prime minister himself and his manner, his disposition is condescending to the people on the street. And in general, his style of governance is not a consensus-based -- or consensus-seeking style. So, ultimately, people will look to what he says.
ANDERSON: Now, does that matter for the future of Turkey, the fact that he isn't of the consensus-building nature? For example, today the stock market down as much as 5.5 percent when he made these remarks, conceding no ground to the protesters either here or in other cities around the country. That means that investors at least in Turkey are concerned. Are you concerned about Turkey's future?
GOKSEL: Well, of course. And there's a choice between reconciliation and this sort of stark social polarization versus deeper polarization. If the prime minister chooses deeper polarization, this might be in his political interest in his view, or it might not be. We can't judge that. But it's not in the interest of the country and the stability of the country.
ANDERSON: When we look out onto the square tonight, it is a very, very peaceful protest. But there's got to be, I would suggest, upwards of 100,000 people out here tonight. I see no security forces at all.
Now, some people would say that the government has listened to the protesters and pulled back. But it worries me to a certain extent that this could go off if somebody sparks it. What do you feel when you look out onto Taksim Square tonight?
GOKSEL: On the one hand, it's remarkable, as you say, that more damage is not being made, that more laws are not being broken. It's a sort of festive atmosphere now on Taksim Square. Yet there are other corners of the country, or even of Istanbul, where there's a little bit more of a violent tinge to the protests.
So, I think we have to differentiate between the different corners where demonstrations are taking place. In this particular area, I think there's somewhat of a standoff with the government as to their demands. But it's a very peaceful standoff.
So, so far, yes, they're concerned, but the atmosphere in the square is not one of negative energy. In fact, it's quite much of solidarity and positive energy.
ANDERSON: Yes. Now, I absolutely agree with the way you've described it. I thank you very much, indeed --
GOKSEL: Thank you.
ANDERSON: -- for joining us. We are also at the airport for you this evening, of course, and I'm being told by Ivan Watson who is there awaiting the arrival of the prime minister back from Tunis that crowds are beginning to swell.
Now, do remember that the deputy leader of the AKP has said to supporters of Prime Minister Erdogan that they don't need to go out and support him. He doesn't need their support. But certainly, Ivan's standing by for us now, and there are members of his support base, as it were, Ivan, there at the airport, and they are beginning to arrive in their droves.
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Becky, this is very important, because at no point over the course of this crisis have the supporters of Recep Tayyip Erdogan been able to show their numbers and express themselves.
And if we pan the camera over here, you'll see that at the airport, more than an hour before the Turkish prime minister is expected to arrive, there is a small, very enthusiastic crowd that is rapidly growing, and they are singing the name of Recep Tayyip Erdogan and chants like "Hands that raise against the police will be broken, hands that raise against our prime minister, they will be broken."
And you were communicating with offices of the ruling Justice and Development Party throughout the day asking if them if they were getting the call to come down to the airport to meet their prime minister, as we had seen in the past, and they were telling us no. So, this is coming as a bit of a surprise to us.
And again, this is important because basically the protesters -- the anti-government protesters, the opposition, have really controlled the narrative here in Turkey for much of this past, very unprecedented week.
And this is the first time that those who voted for the Turkish prime minister are getting a chance to come out and express themselves after seeing the opposition out in such numbers and in such force during this historic week in Turkey. Becky?
ANDERSON: Yes. Fascinating. Let's just remind our viewers as we have been doing throughout our coverage of this, that this is a man who was reelected democratically by the -- some 50 percent of the Turkish population. His supporters there gathering at the airport tonight as Ivan said. Ivan, back to you as we get more.
Well, the protests taking place in Turkey all started with a park in Istanbul, of course. Demonstrators organized a sit-in at Gezi in Taksim Square after hearing plans it would be redeveloped into a mall.
The park, one of the few green spaces left in Istanbul, and protesters say it's as important as Central Park, for example, in New York. But after police raided and burned down the protesters' tents Friday last week, the park became the spark for wider anger over government policies.
So -- the way police treated the protesters at Gezi Park drove one man to write a letter. It was addressed to the prime minister, and it's been causing waves across social media. I had a chance to talk to the man behind what was an open letter and find out why he is joining these protests. He started off by reading just part of what he had written to the prime minister.
CEM BATU, WROTE LETTER TO ERDOGAN (through translator): "My dear Prime Minister: I wasn't a political man. Then how come I took to the streets? Not for two trees. I vowed after seeing how all over town you have attacked those youngsters who were silently protesting in their tents."
ANDERSON: Your letter went viral.
BATU (in English): Yes. Of course I was surprised, because I actually write down my feelings in my Facebook profile page. It wasn't meant to be like this -- I don't know. But it went viral because I think people felt the same feelings that I had.
ANDERSON: Given that the prime minister has spoken, he says he vows to continue with the construction project here. If you were to write that letter again, what would it say?
BATU: Exactly the same thing because he's not listening to us. That's the main problem.
ANDERSON: The government has said that they respect the views, to a certain extent, of the protesters who have a genuine grievance, but they say there are those who are hijacking this protest. To be quite frank, I've seen that with my own eyes. Does that worry you? Do you agree with the government that this has been, to a certain extent, taken over?
BATU: Actually, I think so, because it started to get bigger and bigger. You lose the control. And the crowd is getting bigger and bigger and bigger and of course you lose control. There -- I know I saw there are people out there trying to make this thing go into something different. We don't want that.
ANDERSON: There are signs, slogans, graffiti all over this area saying "Tayyip go, Tayyip resign," asking for the prime minister to go. Is that what you want, and if so, what's the alternative here?
BATU: Actually, in my opinion, it didn't start like this, but his continued attitude of not listening to us makes us feel and want him to go. If he is going to listen to us, starting from now, I'm OK with staying.
ANDRESON: You work in an advertising agency around social media. You're a successful businessman. When you think about Turkey today in 2013, what's the future?
BATU: I don't know. Summer is coming now. Summer is coming.
ANDERSON: Interesting, eh? No Turkish Spring here, he thinks. It's summer. Live from London you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. Coming up, a robot that could revolutionize what we send to landfill. We meet the young designers behind that idea.
And the death toll from Europe's floods rise. We have a live report from the German city of Dresden for you as the surge of water continues downstream. Back in 90 seconds.
ANDERSON: All right, welcome back. I'm Becky Anderson. Extracting precious metal from waste. That is the concept behind a recycling robot created by a group of innovative design students in Finland. In this week's episode of Blueprint, we discover how their concept could radicalize the construction industry whilst also reducing what we all send to landfill. Have a look at this.
JUFO PELTOMAA, ZENROBOTICS: It's a huge problem nowadays. Each year in the year, 900 billion tons of construction and demolition waste is produced.
My name is Jufo Peltomaa. I'm one of the co-founders of ZenRobotics. The other co-founders are Dr. Harri Valpola and Dr. Tuomas Lukka. We are kind of a spin-off from Aalto University. Both Tuomas and Harri were in a research group there.
Our product is called ZenRobotics Recycler, and it's actually a unique combination of artificial intelligence and then normal industrial robotics.
The waste is fed in with a conveyer belt, and from the conveyer belt, a system with different types of sensors, it collects a lot of data. All this data is then combined and sent to our control system, called ZenRobotics brain. The end result is that the robot is capable of identifying and then picking the right kind of waste.
Everywhere where you have construction and demolition waste, there we can help people. For example, in Japan, there was the tsunami and there's something like 20 million tons of construction and demolition waste still lying around in the coast where the tsunami hit. So, definitely we can help in those kind of situations.
We are very excited about meeting Stefan Lindfors. He's a very well- known designer guru in Finland, and I bet he has great ideas for us.
STEFAN LINDFORS, DESIGNER AND ARTIST: Having had a look at, you know, a test run of your ZenRobot, I can't help saying that I am so stunned by the actual machine. I think that the entire machine really is a scary thing, and I so see relating to a human being or a monkey or something.
And when I was watching it earlier, I couldn't help laughing when it would pick up a piece of wood, throw it in the wood bin. I think buyers, they're going to be paying a lot of money for this kind of a device and a machine, and they might say never mind what it looks like.
But that's not true. People always have feelings and they always -- they always have a -- have some kind of an opinion on things. You could have a competition for artists.
LINDFORS: I'd see what Jeff Koons would make out of it.
LINDFORS: You know?
PELTOMAA: That's an excellent idea. Of course, nowadays, we are heavily focusing on construction and demolition waste, so it might be a good idea to give that some kind of uniform look.
LINDFORS: If you could really achieve something in terms of recycling and sorting things, like a maid that just keeps on working forever, I think the whole project is quite astonishing. I also think there should be less waste for us to have to sort to begin with. And after that, I think machines like this certainly come in place.
PELTOMAA: I think this first product, the ZenRobotics Recycler, is just a stepping stone for us, or a proof of concept. It's just a stepping stone for the robotic revolution.
ANDERSON: Coming up after this short break on CONNECT THE WORLD, floods cause further chaos in Europe. We have the latest from Germany, where thousands have been evacuated. Stay with us.
ANDERSON: The German city of Dresden has been spared the worst today after the east of the country bore the brunt of Europe's surging floodwaters, but while the historic city center was spared, outlying areas were inundated, and now cities downriver on high alert.
CNN's senior international correspondent Matthew Chance is in Dresden, and he joins us now, live. Just describe the picture for us, Matthew.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's been a very tense situation, Becky, over the course of the past 24 hours here in Dresden. As the authorities brace themselves for the floodwaters of the Elbe River to really peak, they've done that now. They're in a situation where they're stabilizing, but they've been working terrifically hard to bolster the flood defenses.
Let me just step out of the way of the camera for a moment to take a look at the thousands of sandbags that have been laid all along this area. We're about 100 yards or so from the riverbank, and they've been relatively successful in this area, at least, in keeping back the tide of those floodwaters. And so, it's been a big success here.
But if you take to the air and get a sort of aerial perspective on how much damage these floods have caused it looks very, very serious indeed. Take a look.
CHANCE (voice-over): It's a city drowning in its own river. In the skies over Dresden, German emergency teams gave us an exclusive look at the flood zone and the sheer scale of this European disaster.
CHANCE (on camera): Wow. This is a real vantage you see of the flood zone from the air. It's altogether different from the view you get on the ground. You can really see the extent to which the waters of the Elbe River here in Dresden have taken control over vast areas of this historic city. Total devastation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the right side, you have one of the containers.
CHANCE (voice-over): Among the debris swept downstream, we saw industrial containers. Emergency workers are worried they could contain harmful materials, like chemicals or fuel. These ones were checked and found to be safe.
Further down on what was the riverbank, a children's water park lies partly submerged, its once pristine swimming pools now overcome with brown slurry.
CHANCE (on camera): Well, rightly we've focused on the human impact of these floods. Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes as a result. But the economic impact is going to be immense.
Just look at the scene down there. The damage that has been caused by these floodwaters, not just here in Germany, but across the region. It's going to run into hundreds of millions of dollars.
CHANCE (voice-over): But for now, the focus remains on stemming the flow of Europe's powerful rivers. Officials say that not until the waters recede can the final cost of this flood be counted.
CHANCE: Well, Becky, it could be some time before that, the waters receding takes place. At least four days, according to emergency workers we've been speaking to. Only then will they be able to get some kind of handle on the exact kind of destruction these floodwaters have caused across the region, Becky.
ANDERSON: Matthew Chance in Dresden in Germany. Matt, thank you very much, indeed, for that.
We're in Istanbul for you with CONNECT THE WORLD this evening, as we have been all week. Ivan Watson is at the airport here as we await the arrival of the Prime Minister Erdogan, who spoke earlier on today, conceding no ground to those who've been protesting across the country since he's been out of the country on a trip to North Africa. Ivan, do we know when the prime minister will land at this point?
WATSON: Well, we're hearing that perhaps it could be in a little bit more than an hour that he would land, and the crowd is growing quickly. There's a substantial security presence here, as expected, for the head of the government here.
And again, the reason that this is so important is that we have really seen unprecedented street protests erupting in Istanbul and in other cities across Turkey since last Friday against the Turkish prime minister. This is the first time now that we are seeing his supporters mobilizing themselves, coming out to greet their returning leader, enthusiastically singing his name.
Some of them moments ago were chanting "This is Turkey, not Taksim," of course referring to Istanbul's central Taksim Square, which has been the center of that protest movement against him and so symbolic, moments ago chanting, "Allahu Akbar!" They're mostly waving the flags, the Turkish flags, and sometimes the flag of his Justice and Development Party.
In some of his televised statements earlier this week, the Turkish prime minister said he was having a hard time keeping the 50 percent of Turkish voters who voted for him in their homes as these clashes and protests have erupted against him.
Now, they hare being allowed out to chant their support for their leader. They've also been chanting "Anybody who raises a hand against the police will be broken," and "We are the soldiers of Tayyip," of course, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Becky?
ANDERSON: Yes. All right. So, as we await the arrival of the prime minister here, Ivan there pointing out that the symbolism of Taksim Square -- because this has been the flashpoint, of course. Last Friday in the park, which is due to be demolished, teargassing, pepper spraying, and water cannon, the protesters there were just peaceful, and what you got as a result of that were these mass protests across the country.
It is quiet in the square tonight even though I would estimate there have been as many as 100,000 people, if not more, here both in the park and in the square. We hear form our reporters elsewhere that there are crowds elsewhere.
But as Ivan pointed out, despite the fact that the deputy leader of the AKP here said to supporters of Prime Minister Erdogan he doesn't need your support, you do not need to go to the airport, they are there. And you saw they are there in numbers.
We are not expecting the prime minister to talk when he comes back. He talked in Tunis earlier on today. He conceded no ground and talked about foreign elements and terrorists agitating these protesters. We await to see what happens overnight and into the morning hours.
I'm Becky Anderson, that was CONNECT THE WORLD for you, live here from Istanbul in Turkey. From the team here, it's a very good evening. CNN continues.