NATO members nearing deal on joint Black Sea mine-clearing force

NATO members Bulgaria, Turkey, and Romania are close to reaching an agreement on the creation of a joint mine-clearing force to address the issue of mines drifting into their respective territorial waters, Bloomberg reported on Nov. 20, citing unnamed officials familiar with the plan.

According to Bloomberg, the countries' defense ministries did not comment, but sources noted that their respective deputy defense ministers were set to meet on Nov. 22.

The supposed meeting comes after Turkey’s Navy Chief Admiral Ercument Tatlioglu said that the presence of navy ships from other NATO members, including the U.S., in the Black Sea would possibly increase tensions.

The proposed plan would be peaceful in nature and focused on reducing the danger that errant mines pose to shipping routes through the Black Sea. It would not be consided a NATO effort.

It would, however, be the first joint action of Black Sea allies since the beginning of the full-scale invasion.

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.

On Oct. 4, British intelligence issued a report cautioning that Russia may use sea mines to target civilian cargo ships in the Black Sea, and then blame Ukraine after the fact.

The State Border Guard of Ukraine warned that the Black Sea had become unsafe in the aftermath of Russia's destruction of the Nova Khakovka dam in June 2023.

In addition to the garbage, debris, and dead animals resulting from the dam explosion, floating mines and ammunition also littered the water.

Read also: Russia is covering Ukraine with landmines. Clearing them will be extremely difficult

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