Turkey’s burgeoning strategic relationship with Pakistan raises nuclear concerns since Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan spoke openly in September about Ankara’s ambitions to pursue its own nuclear weapons programme, the Jerusalem Post said on Thursday.

Turkey already has the major elements for acquiring a nuclear capability – rich uranium deposits and the TR-1 and TR-2 Research Reactors maintained by the Turkish Atomic Energy Authority – the daily said, adding that obtaining fuel remains as the greatest challenge. But Turkey’s first nuclear power plant is now being built in partnership with Russia’s Rosatom.

Meanwhile, Turkey has over decades shown great interest in learning the formidable skills needed to purify uranium and turn it into plutonium, the two main fuels needed for a nuclear weapons programme, the Jerusalem Post said. Now, strengthening ties with Pakistan may allow Ankara to access further knowledge it lacks, it said.

Turkey’s defence ties with Pakistan have been burgeoning, the Jerusalem Post said. Two Pakistani naval ships this year participated in a multinational exercise in south Turkey, while in October the Pakistan Navy commissioned a 17,000-ton fleet tanker that it has built in collaboration with a Turkish defence contractor. Islamabad has also agreed to buy 30 Turkish-built combat helicopters in a deal struck in 2018. Ankara, on the other hand, is buying MFI-17 Super Mushshak aircraft from Pakistan.

“The flourishing defence relationship – with its possible nuclear connection – in turn takes place within a broader context,” The Jerusalem Post said. Erdoğan has turned Turkey away from the West towards East, and has now turned its face toward the Islamic world and the path of political Islam, it said.