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Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey to Establish a Joint Mine Clearance Unit in the Black Sea

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Photo: Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey to Establish a Joint Mine Clearance Unit in the Black Sea. Source: navy.mod.bg
Photo: Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey to Establish a Joint Mine Clearance Unit in the Black Sea. Source: navy.mod.bg

Turkey, Romania, and Bulgaria are discussing the creation of a joint force to clear the Black Sea of mines that enter their waters due to Russia's actions against Ukraine, according to three officials familiar with the negotiations, as reported by Bloomberg.

While these three NATO members are still working out the details, they could establish a unit as soon as next month, say the officials who requested not to be named, as the discussions were private.

As Russia's attacks on Ukraine draw closer to NATO's borders, the alliance is attempting to balance its response to incidents to avoid further escalation. From drones to at least a dozen drifting mines, the conflict threatens to spill over into the territories of the three NATO countries directly bordering the Black Sea, prompting them to bolster their defensive measures.

Although it isn't a NATO operation per se, the joint mine clearance unit will be the first major collaborative effort by allies in the Black Sea since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine. This development comes at a time when allies are facing increasingly provocative behavior by Russia in the region.

The new forces are expected to be entirely peaceful and will not introduce any new NATO vessels to the sea, the officials have stated. According to one official, one of the mission's objectives is to demonstrate that the three countries can solve the issue on their own.

Since the outset of the conflict, NATO allies have increased their monitoring and reconnaissance efforts in the Black Sea but have refrained from conducting maritime operations. Turkey refers to an international agreement allowing the passage of military vessels belonging only to the littoral states of the Black Sea.

Following Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Romanian, Bulgarian, and Turkish naval diver teams regularly neutralize drifting mines in their waters.

As previously reported by The Gaze, the Netherlands intends to strengthen its support for Ukraine by offering training to Ukrainian military personnel in the detection and disposal of maritime mines.

"Mines pose a constant threat to Ukraine, but they also enter the waters of other countries. We will commence training two Ukrainian crews on mine-searching vessels," said the country's Minister of Defence, Kajsa Ollongren.

She also added that these crews would assist Ukraine in clearing the Black Sea and countering underwater threats to national maritime traffic.

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