Turkey eyes investment in Niger's uranium supplies

ANKARA -  Turkey and Niger on Tuesday signed a joint declaration regarding closer cooperation on infrastructure for mining, electricity and solar energy.

During a press conference in the Turkish capital of Ankara, Turkey`s energy minister, Taner Yildiz, also expressed his country`s interest in investing in Niger`s uranium supplies. 

"Turkey gives importance to uranium of Niger, as a country building a nuclear plant," said Yildiz.

Yildiz said Niger`s rich natural mining reserves and large young population mean the parties can gain mutual benefits from cooperation. 

Turkey previously signed a memorandum of understanding with Niger in July 2013 during Turkey`s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan`s visit to the country.

Turkey`s President Abdullah Gul also received his Nigerien counterpart, Mahamadou Issoufou, and said that in addition to investing in Niger, Turkey will continue its cooperation in security matters.

"We give great importance to Niger`s political stability. We will continue to do our best to contribute in this regard," Gul said.

The two parties also signed agreements for access to water, agriculture, and health. 

Yildiz mentioned the third anniversary Tuesday of the meltdown of nuclear reactors at Japan`s Fukushima plant, after an earthquake and tsunami, and emphasized that Turkey has learnt from the incident with increased security precautions being used for nuclear plant building in Turkey. 

In response to a journalist`s question about the EU`s decision to delay the talks on the South Stream Project with Russia, Yildiz said, "It is nothing about Turkey`s energy supply security. I hope the EU and Russia will solve the problem among themselves."

The project was for a gas pipeline to transport natural gas from Russia through the Black Sea to Bulgaria and further to Greece, Italy and Austria. 

The project is seen as rival to the planned Nabucco pipeline, for which construction started in December 2012, and was planned to be completed by 2015.

On Monday, the EU Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger revealed that negotiations on the project, which would mean Russian gas could bypass Ukraine when being transferred to Europe, would be delayed.

- Niger calls on Turkish businessmen for investment 

Niger`s Minerals and Industrial Development Minister Omar Hamidou said the memorandum would carry the bilateral cooperation on energy forward and called on Turkish businesspeople to invest in his country.

Niger extracts around 5,000 tons of uranium annually and also has coal, iron, phosphate and cooper. 

He also said new laws provide five to ten years tax exemption for foreign companies. 

Energy and Oil Minister Foumakoye Gado said Turkish businesspeople can invest in electric, hydro-power, coal, natural gas, solar energy, and oil exploration. 

"Previously it was taking three to four months to establish a company in Niger. Now it only takes one or two days," he added.

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