Minister cancels Turkey visit

2013-06-11 17:38
Maite Nkoana-Mashabane (Picture: Sapa)

Maite Nkoana-Mashabane (Picture: Sapa)

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Brussels - A working visit by International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane to Turkey, where violence escalated in the past few days, has been cancelled.

Mashabane was meant to leave Belgium and head for Istanbul, Turkey, on Wednesday, when international media reported a fresh escalation of unrest in Istanbul's Taksim Square.

Her department said she would still leave Belgium as scheduled, but go to Helsinki, Finland, instead.

Riot police used teargas and water cannons to disperse demonstrators who had been protesting for 12 days.

The unrest began as a demonstration against the redevelopment of Gezi Park, in Istanbul, but escalated.

AP on Tuesday reported that the unrest, which spread to 78 towns and cities across Turkey, had allegedly been inspired by what some saw as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's authoritarian style of governing.

ABC News reported that four people had been killed and nearly 5 000 injured.

Trade talks

Mashabane was in Europe this week for trade and political talks with officials in Belgium, Turkey and Finland.

She met European Commission vice president Baroness Catherine Ashton on Monday and spoke at length about several issues, including exports.

On Tuesday night, she was scheduled to attend a working dinner with Belgium's Deputy Prime Minister Didier Reynders to discuss bilateral relations between South Africa and Belgium.

The dinner was scheduled to take place at the Palais d'Egmont at 20:00 Belgium is one of South Africa's main development partners.

Co-operation between the two countries covers a range of sectors, including development, transport, and logistics.

Of significance was the co-operation agreement between the Ports of Durban and Antwerp, regarded as "longstanding and highly valued".

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