The UK FCO, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, have today repeated their warning to British travellers who are intending to travel to Turkey. This latest FCO warning has been issued in the growing expectation that there will be further demonstrations taking place in cities right across the country, following reports that riot police have now entered Taksim Square in Istanbul, which is the main focus point in the demonstrations that have now been taking place for 2 weeks.
The BBC have reported that the authorities used both water cannons and tear gas to try and disperse the crowds; this caused a potential petrol bomber to drop his bomb and set fire to himself. The violent pictures that are appearing on our screens during every news bulletins are in sharp contrast to the what is being released by government who have claimed that the PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan has agreed to a meeting with the protest organisers and calm is about to be resumed.
The FCO has also warned that there are 2 major pro-government rallies set to take place this coming Saturday and Sunday, 15th and 16th June, in both Ankara and Istanbul, and in their statement said that during the week commencing Monday the 10th June, it was possible that further demonstrations would be taking place in cities right across Turkey. Whilst the cities are not where the main bulk of tourists go for their summer holidays they are still popular for excursions and shorter city breaks.
Even though the FCO has issued this warning, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism for Turkey has maintained that it is safe for tourists to visit the country and a spokesperson for the department said that there are no current problems regarding security or transport in Istanbul, or any other main tourist areas, hence the fact that all manner of tourism activities are carrying on as usual and there have been no flights affected, in or out of Turkey, due to the current protests.
The statement went onto say that Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism were, as always, continuing to take every possible precaution where the safety of visitors to Turkey is concerned. The demonstrations were originally a set of protests against the plans the Turkish government had to build on Gezi Park, part of Taksim Square, but they have taken on a wider agenda against the perceived authoritarianism of the government as well as the restrictions they have placed on the sales of alcohol.
One significant problem regarding travellers to Turkey is that if they have not already purchased their travel insurance, there is little chance of them getting any now as insurers are highly unlikely to offer insurance to those travelling to areas which the FCO are telling visitors to keep away from. This leaves the dilemma of running the risk of travelling to a potentially dangerous area uninsured or cancelling the holiday altogether.
This is the worst possible scenario for older travellers and those with pre-existing medical conditions, and they are being advised to heed the warnings seriously. Anyone booked to travel to the areas affected by the protests in the next week or so are advised to consider their options carefully, and watch for the latest updates from the FOC. Travel insurance companies such as Columbus Direct have warned that policies do not cover hostilities and that travellers are advised to re-arrange their trips or to make sure they avoid problem areas.
News is constantly breaking on how the current situation is unfolding in Istanbul, and the protesters are stoically refusing to move from Gezi Park and have made it clear they are not open to negotiation. A spokesperson for the Turkish police has said that they have no intention of entering the park and using any heavy tactics, and are instead concentrating on clearing the surrounding area so life can carry on as normally as possible for those not involved in the protests.