Turkey, Bulgaria and Ukraine agree to mine the Black Sea together

Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria have agreed to jointly clear mines drifting in several areas of the Black Sea as a result of Russia’s nearly two-year invasion of Ukraine. The Black Sea mine clearance memorandum was signed on Jan. 11 in Istanbul at Turkey’s initiative and was the first major joint action by the Black Sea countries since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

According to Bloomberg, the move is primarily aimed at improving the safety of shipping and supporting Ukrainian grain exports to other countries. But the second reason for the agreement is no less important. The memorandum will be a way to avoid escalation of tensions in the region by excluding the presence in the Black Sea of naval forces of other NATO members, such as the United States and the United Kingdom.

In early January, Turkey prevented two British minesweepers, which the UK transferred to Ukraine in December 2023, from entering the Black Sea through the Bosphorus and Dardanelles strait it controls. Ankara explained its decision by the Montreux Convention, which regulates the passage of ships through the strait in wartime.

Russia and Ukraine are major grain producers and exporters, and since the start of the full-scale war, the transportation of goods in the Black Sea basin has been jeopardized. As early as 2022, Turkey, backed by the UN, brokered an agreement to ensure the free passage of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea.

In July 2023, Russia withdrew from the “grain deal”. However, Putin’s plan to blockade Ukraine at sea failed: exports via a new route organized by Kyiv without regard for Moscow exceeded supplies via the grain corridor. Since mid-September, Ukraine has transported 15 million tons of cargo, mostly food, through its Black Sea corridor.

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