By JULIE PACE, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Government crackdowns against protesters in Turkey could test the close ties between President Barack Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (REH'-jehp TY'-ihp UR'-doh-wahn), a strategically important U.S. ally in a tumultuous region.
The demonstrations in Turkey came on the heels of Erdogan's visit to the White House last month. That daylong session highlighted the myriad issues where the U.S. needs Turkey's help. That includes quelling the violence in Syria, stabilizing Iraq and stemming Iran's nuclear ambitions.
Erdogan has responded to public outcry by questioning the legitimacy of the protesters and warning that those who do not respect the government will pay.
On Tuesday, hundreds of Turkish police in riot gear forced through barricades in Istanbul's central Taksim Square briefly firing tear gas canisters and rubber bullets at protesters.