Foreign Minister: Bulgaria backs stepped-up Black Sea exercises, but only under Nato flag

Bulgaria always has supported the idea of intensified exercises in the Black Sea, but only under the Nato flag, Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov said on June 18.

Mitov’s comments to reporters came two days after Bulgaria underlined its reluctance to be part of a Black Sea naval presence being mooted by fellow Nato members Turkey and Romania, and as German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier criticised recent Nato military exercises in
Eastern Europe, calling such drills counterproductive to security in the region.

Speaking to Germany’s Bild am Sonntag newspaper, Steinmeier (SPD) said more dialogue and co-operation with Russia are needed, not what he deemed military posturing.

“What we shouldn’t do now is inflame the situation further through saber-rattling and war cries,” Steinmeier said in comments made available ahead of publication on Sunday, according to a report by Deutsche Welle.

Mitov told reporters that for some time there had been a debate in Nato on how to format an enhanced presence, but said that no specific decision had been taken.

Noting that the presence of naval vessels in the Black Sea was subject to limits set in the Montreux Convention – which says that navy ships from non-Black Sea countries may be present no longer than 21 days – Mitov said that Turkey was “very connected” to the convention and he did not foresee the restrictions in it being dropped.

Bulgaria’s Foreign Minister said that it had been “absolutely unnecessary” for certain elements of the debate about the Black Sea presence to have become a cause for public melodrama.

Talk about the matter should be stripped of drama and returned to being a rational conversation, Mitov said.

The strategic and political environment had changed after Russia’s annexation of the Crimea and Nato, as a defensive alliance, was obliged to provide opportunities for deterrents. This was related to issues of Bulgarian national security, and thus the country was involved in conversation with its Nato partners.



The Sofia Globe staff

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