US asks parties in Turkey to 'calm the situation' amid protests

WASHINGTON (AP) - The White House is calling for all parties in Turkey to "calm the situation" amid anti-government protests.

In a statement, spokesman Laura Lucas said the US believes peaceful public demonstrations "are a part of democratic expression."

And she said Turkey's long-term stability is best guaranteed by upholding "the fundamental freedoms of expression, assembly and association."

The White House statement, in particular, calls on security forces in Turkey to "exercise restraint."

Thousands of people around Turkey have been protesting in the country's fiercest anti-government demonstrations in years.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan rejected claims that he is a "dictator," dismissing protesters as an extremist fringe.