Turkey could enter Jordan's nuclear arena

08/03/2011

Paving the way for closer ties with Jordan, Turkey signed a nuclear co-operation agreement with the kingdom.

By Alakbar Raufoglu for Southeast European Times -- 03/05/11

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Jordan depends on outside sources for most of its energy. [File]

Energy-poor Jordan mostly relies on imports from neighbours -- the kingdom is 95% dependent on imported oil and has among the world's smallest reserves of potable water. Amman wants to build a nuclear plant to meet its growing energy needs and reduce the bill, which consumes about 20% of its annual budget.

In its sprint to become the Arab world's next nuclear power later this decade, Jordan has inked co-operation pacts with Turkey and 11 other nations -- China, Russia, Britain, France, South Korea, Canada, Spain, Argentina, Japan, Romania and Italy.

The deals allow foreign companies to bid for the construction of nuclear facilities in the kingdom.

An agreement with Turkey was signed at a ceremony in Amman by Jordan's Energy Minister Khalid Touqan and Turkish Atomic Energy Authority President Zafer Alper last month.

In an interview with SETimes, Alper detailed the plans.

"The areas in which we are going to co-operate -- such as nuclear reactor operation and servicing, provision of nuclear fuel cycle services, uranium exploration and radiation protection -- are all peaceful," he said.

"We will organise a joint working group to implement a series of projects in the field of scientific research and exchange of technical and scientific expertise, as well as instruct Jordanian students and experts on these peaceful actions," Alper added.

For Turkey, the first step in this co-operation is to offer laboratory services from its nuclear education centres to Jordan, he said.

Meanwhile, some analysts in Ankara have their doubts.

"Even if Jordan's nuclear ambitions are driven by the economy, the agreement with Turkey sounds mostly symbolic," Nuri Yesilyurt, Jordan analyst at the Ankara University, told SETimes. "Turkey itself doesn't possess nuclear capacity; it develops it with Russia's help."

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Ankara's involvement in this process, Yesilyurt continued, is important for Turkey's regional leadership ambitions.

"In principle, the Gulf countries had no problems with Turkey's pro-Western policy, but they worried about its co-operation with Hamas and Hezbollah", he said, adding that it is time for Ankara to change this perception. "Therefore, Turkey is signing this kind of symbolic agreement and withholding visa regimes with the Arab world."

"The nuclear agreement with Jordan decreases the risks for Turkey in its region," said Kaan Dilek, Middle East co-ordinator at the Ankara based Institute of Strategic Thinking.

"On the one hand, Turkey, which has been trying to moderate Iran's nuclear policy for a long time, wants to demonstrate it supports only peaceful nuclear activities in the region," he told SETimes."On the other hand, it wants to benefit from Jordan's co-operation with Israel."

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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