ISTANBUL — Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria have activated a naval task force dedicated to countering mine warfare in the Black Sea.

The move comes as Ukraine fights off a Russian invasion, which has involved clashes in and around the body of water.

The top officers of the Turkish, Romanian and Bulgarian navies met in Istanbul for the initial launch of the task force on Monday. About six months prior, the officials signed a memorandum of understanding to move forward with the initiative.

Vice Adm. Mihai Panait, the chief of Romania’s Naval Forces, said the task force “not only enhances our collective operational capabilities but also addresses the conflict in our region, which has imposed the mobilization of the three riparian NATO states to ensure the freedom of navigation, respecting the Montreux Convention.”

The Black Sea is of strategic importance to NATO, of which all three countries are members. The organization last year encouraged allies to uphold the security and stability of the region, including through the use of the 1936 Montreux Convention. Under that agreement, Turkey manages the movement of commercial and military ships in and out of the Bosporus and Dardanelles.

Rear Admiral Yusuf Akyüz of the Turkish Naval Forces commands the task force, which is charged with ensuring the safety of maritime traffic against mines and strengthening cooperation and interoperability among participants. This initial activation will last July 1-16, and will reform again Sept. 20-29, then finally Nov. 3-13 November.

During these scheduled activations, the task group will also participate in the Bulgarian-led exercise Breeze, the Turkish-run drill Nusret and the Romanian-led exercise Poseidon, respectively, to hone their mine countermeasures skills.

On Jan. 2, 2025, Bulgaria will take command of the task force from Turkey. There are currently two activations planned for that year.

For now, the Turksih support ship TCG Yzb. Güngör Durmuş will act as the flagship. Other vessels assigned to the task force are the Bulgarian mine-hunter BGS Struma, the Romanian mine-sweeper ROS Slt. Alexandru Axente and the Turkish mine-hunter TCG Akçay.

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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