Putin meets Erdogan to start work on Turkey’s first nuclear power plant

April 3 (UPI) — Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Ankara on Tuesday to launch Turkey’s first nuclear power plant with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan and Putin attended a symbolic groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of the Akkuyu nuclear plant on the Mediterranean coast. Russian state nuclear energy agency Rosatom will build the $20 billion project.

“Akkuyu Power Plant will be safe and environmentally-healthy,” Putin said, adding that the nuclear plant would be launched in 2023.

The project was agreed upon in 2010 and will be fully-funded by Russia, who will retain 51 percent of shares that will belong to Russian companies. The other shares will be open to investors.

Erdogan and Putin are expected to hold a closed-door meeting during the visit.

In recent years, Turkey has developed closer political ties with Moscow. Last week, Turkey announced that it would not follow its NATO allies who ousted Russian diplomats in response to the poisoning of an Russian ex-spy in Britain.

The nuclear plant launch comes ahead of a summit between Erdogan, Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in Turkey on Wednesday.

The leaders are expected to discuss a solution to the ongoing war in Syria and their increasingly close economic ties.

“We expect the leaders, both during their meeting and in a joint statement, to reiterate their commitment to support to Syria’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. This is a matter of paramount importance,” Russian president’s aide Yuri Ushakov said.

Putin and Rouhani will also hold a private meeting to discuss their bilateral agenda, including the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action for Iran’s nuclear program, preparations for the Fifth Caspian Summit and the situation in Syria.