On 11 January, Türkiye, Bulgaria, and Romania signed an agreement to establish a Mine Countermeasures Task Group among the three NATO allies, aimed at jointly clearing mines that have drifted into their waters due to Russia’s war in Ukraine, the Associated Press reported.
With Russia’s attacks getting closer to NATO borders, the alliance seeks to respond without escalating tensions. Debris and mines from the war increasingly threaten the only NATO countries with direct Black Sea access.
Türkish Defense Minister Yasar Guler elaborated on the agreement’s purpose at a press conference in Istanbul, stating, “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.”
His Romanian counterpart, Defense Minister Angel Tilvar, and Bulgarian Deputy Defense Minister Atanas Zapryanov joined Guler in this announcement. Zapryanov emphasized the threat posed by these mines, noting their potential impact on “ports, communication networks and key water infrastructure.” He underscored the necessity for NATO to develop countermeasures against “this danger.”
Tilvar drew attention to the broader implications of this issue, attributing Russia’s “disdain for the norms of international law” as a contributing factor to not just regional, but global concerns.
This collaboration follows Türkiye’s decision last week to deny access to two British-donated minesweeping vessels intended for Ukraine.
Earlier, the Bulgarian government clarified that the group’s operations are not targeted against any nation. Instead, the Black Sea demining initiative aims to foster better cooperation and amicable relations among the participating countries.
The signing of the agreement marks the beginning of an operational planning phase, which will involve the creation of detailed documents and instructions for the task group’s activities. This process is expected to take several months.
Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Romanian, Bulgarian, and Türkish military diving teams have been actively involved in clearing mines in their territorial waters. However, this effort is not an official NATO operation.
In December, During a meeting with Levent Bilgen, Türkiye’s recently appointed Ambassador to Ukraine, Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov proposed that Türkiye join the Maritime Coalition to enhance security in the Black Sea.
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