3 April 2001, Copyright © Turkish Daily News
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    Black Sea countries sign naval cooperation agreement

    • 'The force will be deployed for various tasks, from search and rescue operations to environmental and humanitarian missions,' Foreign Minister Ismail Cem says at the signing ceremony

    Ankara - Turkish Daily News

    Six Black sea countries, that is Turkey, Russia, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria and Georgia, signed the Black Sea Naval Cooperation Task Group (Blackseafor) agreement on Monday, envisaging cooperation in a joint naval force that will be available for humanitarian and environmental operations, at the Ciragan Palace in Istanbul.

    Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem and Navy Forces Commander Gen. Ilhami Erdil, Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagarishvili, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Avdayev, Romanian Deputy Foreign Minister Mihnea Motoc, Ukranian Deputy Foreign Minister Yuri A. Sergeyev and Bulgarian Navy Forces Commander Petar Panchev attended the ceremony.

    "The force will be deployed for various tasks, from search and rescue operations to environmental and humanitarian missions," Foreign Minister Ismail Cem said at the signing ceremony.

    Now, the agreement should be approved by the relevant countries' parliaments.

    The project was proposed by Turkey by former Navy Forces Commander Salim Dervisoglu in 1998. The countries signed the letter of intent in Ankara on June 28, 2000.

    The goals for the establishment of Blackseafor are search and rescue operations for humanitarian needs, mine-clearing operations, joint action for protecting the Black Sea environment and organizing goodwill visits amongst Black Sea countries.

    Decisions will be made by the consensus of members, and the presidency will be rotated following the countries' names in alphabetical order. However, Turkey is to be the first president country. At least one maneuver in the Black Sea will be carried out every year.

    The force will not have a permanent presence but will be available to respond to emergency situations when required. The signatory countries will commit their available resources to Blackseafor according to their capabilities and areas of expertise.

    The participant countries plan to activate the force through joint exercises held at least once every year, with the first exercise planned for this summer after a planning meeting in Georgia in April, Turkish Foreign Ministry official Necil Nedimoglu said.

    Signing the agreement, ministers and naval commanders stressed that it represented a step towards broader regional cooperation.

    "The countries of the Black Sea were in rival blocs until a decade ago," Cem said.

    The agreement "confirms the willingness of the region's countries to work together in a wide range of areas," said Ukraine's deputy foreign minister, Yuri Sergeyev.

    Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagarishvili also said Blackseafor would play very important role in regional stability.

    Describing the agreement as an historic event, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Avdayev said Turkey and Russia had signed such kind of agreement for the first time in history.

    The environmental role of the new force could become important as the number of ships carrying oil across the Black Sea increases.

    Last month a new pipeline carried the first oil from Kazakhstan to the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossisk. In June, tankers are expected to begin shipping the oil from Novorossisk across the Black Sea and through Istanbul's Bosporus Strait into the Mediterranean.

     


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