Israel and unlikely Mideast partners collaborate on major light source project

The logo for the SESAME light source project. Credit: SESAME.

( Scientists from Israel, Iran, Turkey, Pakistan, Cyprus, Egypt, and the Palestinian Authority (PA) are collaborating to bring SESAME—an accelerator machine that generates intense light beams for advanced scientific research—to the Middle East by 2017. Iran, Turkey, Pakistan, and the PA are all unlikely partners for Israel because they are normally adversaries of the Jewish state, though Israel and Turkey have been negotiating a reconciliation deal.

The participating countries unanimously decided that operations for SESAME—an acronym for Synchrotron-Light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East—will be located in Jordan.

“Israeli scientists in the field are quite good, but if it had been established here, many scientists originating in countries that don’t have diplomatic relations with Israel would have not participated in the project,” said Prof. Eliezer Rabinovici of Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Racah Institute of Physics, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Rabinovici, who is also the vice president of the SESAME council, said that the collaboration began 20 years ago. Member countries typically pay $500,000 in fees to participate in the initiative. Iran is behind on paying its fees because of past international sanctions against the Islamic Republic, which were lifted as part of last year's nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

The United States, United Kingdom, European Union (EU), Germany, Italy, France, Japan, and Kuwait all hold observer status in SESAME. The EU and Italy have contributed millions of euros to the project.

Posted on April 5, 2016 .