Turkey, Romania, and Bulgaria plan to sign an agreement on joint clearance of mines in the Black Sea in January, Turkish Defense Minister Yasar Guler said on Dec. 16, Reuters reported.
For months, the three NATO countries have been leading talks on the issue of mines floating in the Black Sea as a result of Russia's aggression against Ukraine.
"As part of the Trilateral Initiative launched under the leadership of our country to combat the mine threat in the Black Sea, we held the third round of the Black Sea Mine Action Task Force meeting on Nov. 22-23, hosted by our ministry," Guler said during a press conference.
"We are planning to hold a signing ceremony in Istanbul on Jan. 11, 2024, with the presence of the three countries' defense ministers."
The minister said that mine-clearing vessels of the initiative's countries would carry out constant patrols to the point where Romania's sea borders end.
Guler noted that, for now, there are no plans to include other states in the initiative.
The defense chiefs of the three countries held talks on the plan at a NATO meeting in Brussels in October and later in Anakara in November. Although all three countries are NATO members, the initiative would not be considered an alliance operation.
Hundreds of sea mines, deployed by both Russia and Ukraine, are spread throughout the Black Sea. On several occasions, civilian ships or navy ships belonging to countries not party to the war have struck sea mines since the beginning of the full-scale invasion.
A Liberian-flagged oil tanker hit a mine in the Black Sea off the Romanian coast on Oct. 15, and a Turkish cargo ship suffered minor damage from a mine 20 kilometers from the Romanian port of Sulina on Oct. 5.