United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Monday called on Turkey to respect freedom of expression after the country's top-selling newspaper was taken over by the state, noting that critical voices should be permitted to flourish, a UN spokesman said.

Turkish authorities seized control of Zaman newspaper on Friday in a widening crackdown against supporters of U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, an influential foe of President Tayyip Erdogan. Zaman has been affiliated with Gulen.

The move sparked two days of protests which police dispersed using tear gas and water cannons. 

"The secretary general is aware of developments, announced on March 4, regarding court action in relation to the Feza Media Group in Turkey," UN spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters.

"He is following the situation closely."

He said Ban urged that "freedoms of expression and assembly are respected in any actions taken.… Vibrant democracy and economic and social development depend on a flourishing of peaceful opinions and voices, even when they are critical."

AFP_8J5FM

Suleyman Bag, editor in chief of the German edition of Zaman, sits in his Berlin office on Monday. Zaman plans to continue publishing as an opposition daily in Germany. (John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images)

The European Union also insisted Turkey heed the call to adhere to fundamental democratic rights and freedom of the press.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said before a migration crisis summit with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Monday that Turkey must "respect the highest standards when it comes to democracy, rule of law, fundamental freedoms starting from the freedom of expression."

The leaders of France and Belgium also insisted on guarantees for media freedom.

Zaman plans to continue publishing as an opposition daily in Germany after the state takeover in its home country, Suleyman Bag, the editor in chief of Zaman Germanyn, said on Monday.