Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania sign a deal to tackle Black Sea mines

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania on Thursday signed an agreement to jointly tackle rogue sea mines that have threatened Black Sea shipping since the start of the Ukraine war.

Turkish Defense Minister Yasar Guler said the memorandum established a Mine Countermeasures Task Group between the three NATO allies to deal with drifting mines.

“We jointly decided to sign a protocol between three countries in order to fight more effectively against the mine danger in the Black Sea by improving our existing close cooperation and coordination,” Guler said at a news conference in Istanbul with Romanian Defense Minister Angel Tilvar and Bulgaria’s Deputy Defense Minister Atanas Zapryanov.

The deal comes after Ankara last week refused entry to the Black Sea for two minesweeping vessels donated to Ukraine by Britain.

At the start of the war in February 2022, Turkey enacted the 1936 Montreux Convention to block the passage of Russian or Ukrainian ships through the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits. It also told non-Black Sea states not to send warships.

Guler said implementation of the Montreux Convention was important for regional security. He suggested that other countries could participate in mine-clearing at the end of the war.

Moscow and Kyiv have blamed each other for stray mines that have washed up near the Black Sea coast.

The initiative aims to make shipping safer, including for vessels transporting grain from Ukraine.

Turkey and the United Nations brokered a deal in July 2022 to ensure the free passage of Ukrainian grain via the Black Sea but Russia abandoned the deal a year later. Since then Ukraine has shipped grain along a corridor through the western Black Sea.

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