In another gesture to placate protesters, Erdogan said that police may have used tear gas excessively. The Interior Ministry said police officers who abused their power would be punished.

Erdogan said the government was determined to revamp Taksim and rebuild the old army barracks but said no firm decision was made on building a shopping mall. He also spoke of government plans to tear down a cultural center to build an opera hall, in statements that could cause further controversy.

The protests broke out just days after Istanbul pitched its bid to host the 2020 Olympic games to sports and Olympic officials at a conference in St. Petersburg.

The United States, Britain and Sweden were among countries that asked citizens to stay away from areas where protests were held.

In Syria, Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi said Erdogan's suppression of the peaceful protests in Turkey was "illogical and reveals his detachment from reality."

Echoing words that Erdogan has used against Syrian leader Assad, Al-Zoubi said it is unjustified that Erdogan should defy his people.