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Biden urges Turkey's government to respect dissent as protests rage on

Anti-government protesters camp out in an Istanbul park after another night of violent clashes with police. NBCNews.com's Dara Brown reports.

Vice President Joe Biden has urged Turkey's government to respect its opponents amid ongoing clashes between protesters and police.

American citizens in Turkey -- a NATO member and key ally in the Middle East -- have been warned to stay clear of demonstrations and large gatherings following violence that has seen at least two people die.

Clashes between protesters and police continued across the country late Tuesday and early Wednesday.

In recent days police unleashed tear gas and water cannons on protesters who came to save trees in the public park, but now the protests are directed at Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. NBC's Jim Maceda reports.

Police fired tear gas and water cannons at protesters who set up barricades and threw stones at them in the eastern province of Tunceli, witnesses told Reuters. There were also clashes in the capital, Ankara, and Hatay province.

In the western port city of Izmir, police raided 38 addresses and detained 25 people on suspicion of stirring insurrection on social media with comments on the protest, opposition CHP party deputy Alaattin Yuksel said. Police declined to comment.

The protests began in Istanbul over a plan to remove trees in a park to make way for a new building but escalated into wider demonstrations against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's government. His AK Party has its roots in Islamist parties that were banned in the past.

Biden urged the Turkish government to show its commitment to democratic principles.

Stringer / AFP - Getty Images

Protests that started as an outcry against a local development project in Taksim Square have snowballed into widespread anger against what critics say is the government's increasingly conservative and authoritarian agenda.

"Today's Turkey has a chance to demonstrate that there's no need to choose between economic advancement and democracy, the system that empowers the winners of elections and yet protects those who are in opposition," Biden said, according to Reuters.

The State Department issued a travel alert that highlighted “numerous reports of violence, injuries, and at least two confirmed deaths resulting from or related to clashes between protestors and Turkish law enforcement authorities."  

"U.S. citizens are urged to remain alert to local security developments and to be vigilant regarding their personal security," it said.

“Violent altercations have occurred in areas of Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir, Adana, Mersin, and elsewhere,” the alert added. “The Turkish National Police and protestors continue to clash in some locations. Individuals caught in the vicinity of violence have been injured and/or detained, including U.S. citizens.”

It said that U.S. citizens “should be alert to the potential for violence” and “strongly” urged them to avoid demonstrations and large gatherings.

“Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence,” the alert said.

It noted, however, that there had been no direct attacks on U.S. citizens.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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