Putin and Erdogan launch construction of Turkey's first nuclear reactor

Putin and Erdogan launch construction of Turkey's first nuclear reactor
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, walks with Russia's President Vladimir Putin, centre, during a welcome ceremony, in Ankara, Turkey. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

The leaders of Russia and Turkey have launched the start of construction for Turkey's first nuclear power plant, as ties between the two nations deepen.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, on his first foreign visit since being re-elected on March 18, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan remotely gave the go-ahead for the construction of the Russian-built nuclear plant on the Mediterranean coast at Akkuyu.

Mr Putin hailed the project as a symbol of growing co-operation between Russia and Turkey.

"We face the ambitious goal of launching the first reactor in 2023 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the Republic of Turkey," Mr Putin said during Tuesday's ceremony.

"We agreed with my dear friend, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to do everything necessary to achieve that goal."

Mr Erdogan said the power plant would meet 10% of Turkey's energy needs after all reactors become operational.

"Thus we will have made our energy basket - still largely reliant on petroleum, natural gas and coal - more robust," he added.

The Akkuyu plant is being built by Russia's nuclear energy agency, Rosatom. The project is estimated to cost 20 billion US dollars.

Turkey and Russia have put aside their traditional rivalries and differences on regional issues to forge closer ties. Mr Putin and Mr Erdogan have met several times in the past year and regularly speak on the phone.

Their ever-warming ties come as Russia is running into widespread diplomatic fallout from the poisoned spy scandal.

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