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Ankara's under-pressure mayor announces resignation

© AFP | On his way out: Ankara mayor Melih Gokcek poses during an interview with AFP last year

ANKARA (AFP) - 

Turkey's long-serving mayor Melih Gokcek announced on Monday he will step down, after coming under pressure from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who is seeking to refresh the ruling party ahead of elections next year.

Gokcek, 68, who has been the mayor of the capital Ankara since 1994, had been one of the three greater city chiefs resisting pressure from Erdogan to quit.

"God willing, I will convene the greater city municipal council on Saturday, say farewell to council member friends and give my resignation," Gokcek wrote on Twitter, after meeting with Erdogan at the presidential palace.

Bursa mayor Recep Altepe also announced his resignation on Monday, leaving Balikesir mayor Edip Ugur the only one of three mayor not to make a statement about a possible stepdown.

Erdogan, who has often noted that parts of the party have suffered from "metal fatigue", is seeking refresh his ruling Justice and Development Party ahead of 2019 elections.

Last week, the president clearly said the Ankara mayor would abide by his call.

"What's necessary will be done in a short period of time," the president had said, warning that his party would take action against the mayors if they refused to heed the calls.

Local elections due in March 2019 will set the tone for a crunch political year, culminating in parliamentary and presidential elections in November.

The speculation over Gokcek's position had been on the rise since he met Erdogan early this month.

Gokcek has often made outlandish claims on Twitter, where he regularly updates his more than 4 million followers.

The outspoken mayor once warned that outside forces could be using sophisticated technology to try to trigger a manmade earthquake in a deliberate bid to harm Turkey's fragile economy.

In 2015, Gokcek attacked a US State Department spokeswoman, calling her a "stupid blonde."

© 2017 AFP