While Jerusalem lashed out against Moscow on Wednesday for wanting to include Hamas in the diplomatic process, it took a much more low-key approach to news that Russia would build a nuclear reactor in Turkey, and was considering doing the same in Syria.
“This is obviously not something people here are overjoyed about,” one official said of the developments, but there is a feeling – at least regarding Turkey – that if the plant is under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency, there is much less to worry about.
The problem is Syria, the official added, because although it is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and under IAEA supervision, it still managed to set up a clandestine plutonium-producing facility that was reportedly taken out by the IAF in September 2007.
“The Syrians have never apologized and have not been cooperative with the IAEA,” the official said.
Turkey and Russia signed 17 cooperation agreements on Wednesday, including one for the construction of Turkey’s first nuclear power plant near the Mediterranean coastal town of Akkuyu. The construction was expected to take seven years, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.
Russia plans to build four reactors at the plant at a cost of about $20 billion.
On Tuesday, Russia’s energy minister, who visited Damascus along with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, said Moscow was studying the possibility of building a nuclear plant in Syria as well.
Syrian President Bashar Assad said during Medvedev’s visit that he and the Russian president “talked about oil and gas cooperation, as well as constructing conventional or nuclear-powered electricity stations.”
Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko, when asked whether his country would build an atomic power plant in Syria, told Reuters, “We are studying this question.”
Israeli diplomatic officials said Russia was following France and the US in trying to ink lucrative deals in Mideast countries for nuclear plants. The US signed civil nuclear power deals with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in 2009, and France pledged in 2007 to help Morocco develop its nuclear program for civilian use.
Over the past three years, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait,
the UAE, Yemen, Morocco, Libya, Jordan and Egypt have all indicated an
interest in developing some kind of nuclear facilities.
Israel, one official acknowledged, has little leverage to try to stop
Russia from building a nuclear reactor in either Turkey or – if it
desired – in Syria, just as it had little power to keep Moscow from
building the Iranian reactor in Bushehr.
AP contributed to this report.