ISTANBUL — Defense leaders from Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania formalized a pact Jan. 11 aimed at protecting Black Sea shipping from mines laid in the course of Russia’s attack against Ukraine.

Turkish defense minister Yaşar Güler, Bulgarian deputy defense minister Atanas Zapryanov and Romanian defense minister Angel Tîlvăr signed a memorandum of understanding to that effect here. The initiative, conceived by Turkey last September, now goes to the national governments for approval.

According to the agreement, the task force will include three mine countermeasures ships – one from each country – and a command-and-control ship. Deployments of 15 days will take place at least twice every six months.

A committee of naval commanders from the three participating will oversee the effort, holding meetings at least twice per year. The overall leadership will rotate every six months.

Per a Turkish defense ministry statement, the activities of the MCM Black Sea initiative are not directed against any other country, a caveat in line with Ankara’s reluctance to antagonize Russia explicitly.

Instead, the statement continues, the initiative is expected to help improve interaction and neighborly relations between the participants without replacing NATO’s presence and ongoing deterrence and defence activities in the Black Sea region.

The Bulgarian navy operates three Tripartite-class mine hunters, three Sony- class minesweepers transferred from the Soviet Union in early 1980ies and six Olya-class inshore minesweepers.

The Romanian naval forces have four Musca-class minesweepers in service. These were commissioned between 1987 and 1989. The first of two newly acquired Sandown minehunters from the UK arrived in Romania in late December 2023.

The Turkish Navy has five Engin-class mine hunters bought from France in 1997, plus six Aydın-class ships.

Cem Devrim Yaylali is a Turkey correspondent for Defense News. He is a keen photographer of military ships and has a passion for writing about naval and defense issues. He was born in Paris, France, and resides in Istanbul, Turkey. He is married with one son.

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