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Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria sign deal on Black Sea mine clearance

by The Kyiv Independent news desk January 11, 2024 4:15 PM 2 min read
Barrier nets installed on a beach to block access to the Black Sea due to the danger of mines in Odesa, on July 4, 2022. (Nina Liashonok/Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty Images)
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Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria signed a memorandum of understanding on Black Sea de-mining in Istanbul on Jan. 11 which can ensure safe grain shipments from Ukraine, Bulgaria's Defense Ministry reported.

Turkish Defense Minister Yasar Guler, his Romanian counterpart Angel Tilvar and Bulgaria's Deputy Defense Minister Atanas Zapryanov agreed on establishing the Mine Countermeasures Naval Group in the Black Sea (MCM Black Sea).

The initiative will "help improve interaction and good neighborly relations between the participants, without replacing NATO's presence and ongoing deterrence and defense activities in the Black Sea area,” Bulgaria's Defense Ministry said.

Hundreds of mines have been spread throughout the Black Sea since the beginning of Russia's full-scale invasion in February 2022. Several civilian ships and navy ships belonging to countries not party to the war have struck sea mines since the beginning of the full-scale invasion.

As part of the Istanbul-led deal, the three countries will oversee efforts to clear mines that have been drifting in the Black Sea since the start of Russia's invasion. Other NATO members aren't involved in the initiative, and it can't be considered an alliance operation.

Guler said that mine-clearing vessels of the agreement's countries would carry out constant patrols to the point where Romania's sea borders end.

Turkey, which along with the UN brokered the Black Sea Grain Initiative that collapsed after Russia's withdrawal in July 2023, is expected to play a major role in the agreement.

Istanbul blocked the passage of British mine-hunter ships destined for Ukraine earlier in January, referring to an international convention that governs maritime traffic in the region.

According to the Ukrainian Navy, as of June 2023, it has destroyed more than a hundred anchor mines in the Black Sea. Navy spokesperson Dmytro Pletenchuk said the total number of mines can be established when the "full-scale operation" for this mission is launched.

This Week in Ukraine Ep. 32 – How Russia is losing superiority in the Black Sea
Episode #32 is dedicated to Ukraine’s surprising successes in the Black Sea.
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