Turkey: For Ankara, the Nuclear Issue High on the Agenda
After being grounded for several months following an unspecified digestive tract illness and subsequent surgery, the normally on-the-go Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was back in action this week, with a trip that took him first to South Korea and then Iran. In both cases, the question of nuclear power -- that of Turkey and of others -- was high on the agenda.
While other issues, namely Syria, are on Erdogan's plate during his visit today to Tehran, the question of Iran's controversial nuclear program will clearly dominate his talks with the Iranians (among others, the Turkish PM is meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani). In the past, Erdogan had been accused of being too quick to defend the Iranians and the intentions of their nuclear activity, but there was some indication that time around he was coming to Tehran with a sterner message. Initial reports out of Iran, though, found Erdogan voicing support for a "peaceful" Iranian nuclear program. “No one has the right to impose anything on anyone with regards to nuclear energy, provided that it is for peaceful purposes,” Erdogan said during a press conference with Iranian First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi.
Erdogan's words on Iran's nuclear ambitions are understandable, though, considering Turkey's own growing civilian nuclear plans, something the PM spoke about in detail during his trip to South Korea, to attend the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit. Reports the Hurriyet Daily News:
Turkey is determined to provide some 10 percent of its electricity needs from nuclear facilities as of 2030, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, speaking at the Nuclear Security Summit in South Korea’s Seoul yesterday.
“Making use of safe, low-cost and environmentally-friendly energy resources is the focus of our development strategies,” Erdoğan said, addressing the general assembly attended by world leaders.
“Turkey has launched its ambitious nuclear program. It will implement this program resolutely to meet the country’s energy needs sustainably,” he said, adding that the program would be based on the principles of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), attaining high safety and security standards.
Turkey has already made a deal with Russia for the construction of its first nuclear plant, to be built on the country's Mediterranean coast, and is in talks with Japanese and South Korean companies about building a second plant.
Meanwhile, the nuclear question is likely to stay on Ankara's agenda. Although the plans are still being debated, it appears that nuclear talks between Iran and the US, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany (known as the P5+1) will resume in mid April, most likely in Istanbul.
And in further related news, the Istanbul-based think tank EDAM, which previously issued an excellent report about Turkey's nuclear plans, has just released the results of a new public opinion survey it conducted about Turks' support for their country developing nuclear weapons, particularly in case Iran gets its own bomb. The result? Fifty four percent of those surveyed said they believe Turkey should go nuclear -- in the military sense, that is -- if Iran does. More here.