(Bloomberg) -- Turkey asked Russia to build its second nuclear power plant, in the latest sign of closer economic ties even as the US and its allies try to isolate the Kremlin for its invasion of Ukraine. 

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made the request in talks last week in Kazakhstan with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, their fourth meeting in as many months, according to people familiar with the situation, speaking on condition of anonymity to share the sensitive information.

Russian state nuclear giant Rosatom Corp. said Wednesday that talks are underway on a possible deal to build a new, four-reactor plant in Sinop on the Black Sea coast. Rosatom Chief Executive Officer Alexey Likhachev told state TV the project is an “attractive opportunity.”

Erdogan has cultivated ties with Putin for years, even as he tries to maintain warm relations with Ukraine and remains a US ally in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. 

Close Ties

Rosatom is already constructing Turkey’s first nuclear plant at Akkuyu on the Mediterranean cost and the first unit could begin operation next year. The company agreed over the summer to transfer $15 billion for the project to a Turkey-based subsidiary, providing a vital financial inflow as Erdogan goes into elections next year.

If the Sinop project goes ahead, the two plants could produce about a fifth of Turkey’s electricity needs, Erdogan said after the meeting with Putin last week.

Erdogan also endorsed Putin’s proposal for a new gas hub in Turkey to ship the fuel to Europe. Officials on the continent have rejected the idea, however, accusing Putin of using its energy supplies as a weapon in the conflict over Ukraine. Russia is seeking new markets having cut off supplies to most of western Europe, once its largest buyer.

Russia Removed From Nuclear-Energy Stage at Washington Summit

Turkey’s close economic ties with Russia come amid mounting US concerns over Ankara’s compliance with financial sanctions imposed on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. 

Ankara has refused to join sanctions against Russia and has acted as a self-declared mediator between Kyiv and Moscow. While supplying lethal Turkish-made armed drones to Kyiv, it shut its straits and air space to Russian military ships. It also helped broker a deal for grain shipments from Ukrainian ports and a prisoner swap between the warring parties.

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.