Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania, three NATO members bordering the Black Sea, signed a tripartite agreement on Thursday, January 11, to combat floating mines. The “Black Sea Mine Countermeasure Initiative” (“MCM Black Sea”), signed in Istanbul, should make it possible to secure navigation, including the export of Ukrainian grain along the Romanian and Bulgarian coasts.

Romanian Defense Minister Angel Tilvar and Bulgarian Deputy Defense Minister Atanas Zapryanov joined Turkish Defense Minister Yachar Güler in a palace on the Bosphorus, the southern gateway to the sea Black, to sign the agreement of which they will take turns as president for six months. “We jointly decided to sign a protocol between three countries in order to more effectively combat the mine danger in the Black Sea by strengthening our existing cooperation and coordination,” Güler said, adding that negotiations began “in September “.

The “MCM Black Sea” Naval Group was created by Turkey in August 2023 after Moscow refused to extend the grain agreement allowing the export of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea, launched a year earlier under the auspices of the Nations united.

While the three signatories belong to the Atlantic Alliance, Mr. Güler stressed that “this initiative will only be open to ships from the three coastal allied countries”, effectively excluding the intervention of third countries in order not to contravene the Montreux Convention, which governs navigation in the Bosphorus in times of war. “Agreed contributions [with] other actors in certain areas will be possible over time when conditions are met,” he added.

Under the Montreux Convention, which gives Turkey authority over the strait, Ankara has prohibited access to the Bosphorus to military vessels that are not usually based in the Black Sea.

From the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, bordering the Black Sea to the north, coastal countries feared the appearance of floating mines, placed by the belligerents to protect their coasts. Since then, several devices have been spotted and recovered without damage. But in late December, a Panama-flagged cargo ship heading to a Ukrainian port to load grain hit a mine, and two sailors were injured.