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EU-backed major research facility promotes peace in the Middle East

26/05/2017

Strongly supported by European Union funding, the SESAME synchrotron, the first major international research infrastructure in the Middle East, started operating today in Allan, Jordan.

Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, attended today's inauguration event alongside His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan and over 300 policy makers, scientists and diplomats from the region, the EU and beyond.

Commissioner Moedas said: "SESAME is the best evidence that science diplomacy is a driver of scientific and technological excellence and a powerful tool for improving relations across countries, regions and cultures promoting peace and stability in the region. As a universal language, science opens channels of communication and builds trust. I'm proud to see that the EU is supporting this important flagship of science diplomacy."

SESAME is, in effect, a large machine with a circumference of around 130 meters that accelerates electrons to almost the speed of light. As the electrons are deflected through magnetic fields, they create extremely bright light, which is used to study different properties of matter. Experiments at SESAME will enable cutting edge research in fields including medicine, biology, materials science, physics, chemistry, healthcare, the environment, agriculture and archaeology.

The EU has been a major contributor to SESAME. It has so far invested over €15 million to its construction, mainly through the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation and the European Neighbourhood Instrument. €3.5 million of EU funding is currently supporting the construction of a photovoltaic solar power plant, which will make SESAME the first "green synchrotron" in the world.

Background

The Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East (SESAME) project was launched in 2002 under the auspices of UNESCO with the aim of using science diplomacy to foster a culture of peace and cooperation in the broader Middle East. Its members currently include Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Pakistan, the Palestinian Authority and Turkey. The EU is an observer in SESAME since April 2015 along with Brazil, China, Japan, Kuwait, Russia, Switzerland, the US, and several EU Member States (France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom) that also have an observer status in their own right.

Science diplomacy, a part of the Open to the World priority set by Commissioner Moedas for EU's research and innovation policy, is the use of science to prevent conflicts and crises, underpin policy making, and improve international relations in conflict areas where the universal language of science can open new channels of communication and build trust. Science diplomacy has a particular added value in the EU - Middle East cooperation, as research and science initiatives in the region bring together countries and entities often at odds such as Iran, Israel, Palestine, Turkey and Cyprus.

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