Russia, Turkey hold joint naval drill in Black Sea

By Elena Teslova

MOSCOW (AA) – Russian and Turkish naval forces held a joint maneuver in the Black Sea, the Russian Defense Ministry reported Friday.

Russian patrol ship "Vasily Bykov" and sea trawler "Valentin Pikul", and Turkish navy corvette "Burgazada" and minesweeper "Akcay" took part in the drill conducted near the port of Novorossiysk, the ministry said in a statement.

The statement said the two countries' forces worked together to simulate safe navigation of vessels out of a naval minefield.

The drill was part of Turkey's national naval war games "Blue Motherland-2019".

Turkey seeks 'stability' in Black Sea, not tensions

             By Tugcenur Yilmaz</p>  <p>ANKARA (AA) - Turkey seeks &quot;peace and stability&quot; in the Black Sea region, not tensions, said Turkey’s foreign minister on Friday.</p>  <p>&quot;We do not want the Black Sea to be a sea of tensions. On the contrary, we want a sea of peace and stability,&quot; Mevlut Cavusoglu told a joint news conference with his Ukrainian counterpart Pavlo Klimkin in the Ukrainian city of Odessa.</p>  <p>Cavusoglu was visiting Odessa to attend the seventh meeting of the joint strategic planning group functioning under the Turkey-Ukraine High Level Strategic Council.</p>  <p>Touching on the security of the Black Sea region, Cavusoglu said Turkey is a NATO member which supports and contributes to the bloc’s decisions.</p>  <p>On last year’s crisis between Ukraine and Russia around the Sea of Azov, next to Crimea, he said Turkey has good relations with both Ukraine and Russia, so Ukraine and the rest of the world have expectations of Turkey.</p>  <p>Last November, Russia seized two Ukrainian navy ships and a tugboat along with 24 crew members off Crimea, accusing the vessels of entering its waters and provoking conflict.

Ukraine accused Russian warships of opening fire on the ships, wounding their crew members.

Additionally, Cavusoglu repeated Turkey's support for the territorial integrity of Ukraine and its borders.

Russia and Ukraine have been at loggerheads since 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea after a controversial referendum.

Turkey, as well as the UN General Assembly, view the annexation as illegal.

Ukraine has also blamed Russia for separatist violence in eastern Ukraine, near the border with Russia.

– Crimean Tatars

Turkey and Ukraine will continue to defend the rights of Crimean Tatars, Cavusoglu said.

He underlined that Turkey will continue its efforts to bring detained Crimean Tatars from Russia back to Ukraine.

There are some 280,000 Tatars — a Turkic ethnic group — living in Crimea, or nearly 13 percent of the peninsula’s total population, according to Turkey’s Foreign Ministry.

UPDATE – Turkey finds 2 bodies after ship sinks off Black Sea

UPDATE WITH MORE RECOVERED BODIES, CHANGES HEADLINE AND DECK

By Ilyas Gun, Mustafa Cavus and Dilek Sezen

SAMSUN, Turkey (AA) – Coast guard units have found two more bodies of crew members after a Panama-flagged cargo vessel sank off Turkey’s Black Sea coast, the local governorship said on Tuesday.

Samsun province's governor office said in a statement rescue boats will continue search operations for two other bodies.

The search operation was being aided by two boats and a helicopter, it added.

The bodies of Azerbaijani captain Ismyilov Turbat and Ukrainian third mate Bodnik Ruslan, 31, were recovered on Monday.

Samsun Governor Osman Kaymak on Monday told reporters that six sailors died and seven others were rescued by the Turkish Coast Guard after the vessel went down some 80 nautical miles off the northern Samsun province.

Eleven crew members were Ukrainian nationals and two Azerbaijani, he added.

One rescued sailor said an unexpected wave had taken away the ship's bow, Kaymak said.

The vessel contained 3,300 tons of coal.

The ship built in 1978 is 11,387 meters long and 1,323 meters wide.

UPDATE 3 – 6 die as cargo ship sinks off Turkey’s Black Sea coast

             UPDATES WITH DEATH TOLL BY OFFICIAL STATEMENT</p>    <p>By Fatih Hafiz Mehmet and Muhammed Boztepe</p>    <p>ANKARA (AA) - At least six seamen were killed when a Panama-flagged cargo vessel sank off Turkey’s Black Sea coast on Monday, officials said.</p>    <p>Samsun Governor Osman Kaymak told reporters that six sailors were killed and seven others were rescued by the Turkish Coast Guard after the vessel went down some 77 nautical miles off northern Samsun province. </p>  <p>A 13-strong crew was aboard the vessel that was reportedly carrying coal before it sent a distress call and eventually broke into two, according to the Samsun governor’s office. </p>    <p>Search and rescue efforts were underway with four helicopters, one plane, two Coast Guard boats, one rescue ship, and one towing boat, the statement added.</p>    <p>It wasn't immediately clear why the ship sank.
  • Ilyas Gun and Recep Bilek in Samsun contributed to this report

Turkey exports 118,335 tons of hazelnut in 4 months

By Muhammed Ali Gurtas

ANKARA (AA) – Turkey's hazelnut exports totaled 118,335 tons in September-December 2018, a trade group announced on Friday.

The Black Sea Hazelnut and Products Exporters' Union (KFMIB) reported that Turkey earned $657.6 million from hazelnut exports during the first four months of the season.

With 76.7 percent of total exports, the EU was the top market for Turkey's hazelnut exports.

The union figures showed that 41.7 percent of the country's hazelnut exports were processed products worth $278.8 million, while the rest were raw hazelnuts.

Turkey — the world's largest hazelnut exporter — earned $1.78 billion with nearly 287,000 tons of hazelnut exports last season, from September 2017 to the end of August 2018.

26,500+ irregular migrants held in Turkish seas in 2018

By Ramazan Ercan

IZMIR (AA) – Turkish security forces held 26,678 irregular migrants seeking safety in Europe in the seas surrounding the country in 2018, according to security sources.

Sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on talking to the media, said the number of migrants held at sea increased 21.6 percent compared with 2017.

At least 96 migrants died of drowning or hypothermia in the Aegean, Mediterranean and Black seas in 2018 — 65 of whom died on the Aegean sea. This is an increase from the total 56 migrants who died of drowning or hypothermia in 2017.

Additionally, 87 people were arrested for alleged human smuggling.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of migrants flee from civil conflict or economic hardship in their home countries with hopes of reaching Europe.

While some are able to make the perilous journey over land or sea via human smugglers, many are held by security forces before crossing the border to Europe.

There were 25,398 migrants rounded up in the Aegean Sea in 2018, which is 95 percent of the total migrants who came by sea last year.

Number of irregular migrants by month (2018)
January 1,640
February 1,363
March 1,849
April 2,534
May 3,398
June 1,925
July 2,433
August 1,523
September 3,019
October 3,227
November 1,187
December 2,580
Total 26,678

US prepares to sail warship in Black Sea: Report

            By Michael Hernandez</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - The U.S. has begun preparations to sail a Navy warship into the Black Sea amid heightened tensions over Russia's seizure of Ukrainian ships and sailors. </p>  <p>The Pentagon has requested that the State Department inform Turkey of the possible action, CNN reported Wednesday, citing three anonymous officials. </p>  <p>The U.S. is required to notify the country under the terms of the 1936 Montreux Convention, which governs the movement of military ships through the strategic Bosphorus and Dardanelles waterways which connect the Mediterranean to the Black Sea.</p>  <p>The officials CNN spoke to said the plans to possibly sail a warship into the Black Sea are in response to Russia's actions. </p>  <p>Russia seized two Ukrainian navy ships and a navy tugboat along with 24 crew members off Crimea in late November, accusing the vessels of entering its waters and provoking a conflict.</p>  <p>It said the vessels had ignored calls to stop, sparking military action.</p>  <p>Russia intervened as the Ukrainian ships were relocating from the Black Sea port of Odessa to the port of Mariupol in the Sea of Azov.</p>  <p>The action has further strained ties between Moscow and Kiev. </p>  <p>Russia's Investigative Committee has accused the Ukrainians of illegal border crossing.</p>  <p>In a tit-for-tat, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has forbidden Russian male citizens aged 16 to 60 from entering the country. </p>  <p>Russia and Ukraine have been at loggerheads since 2014, when Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula following a controversial referendum.</p>  <p>The international community views the annexation as illegal and the election Russia uses to justify it as illegitimate.

Serbia hosts ministers of Black Sea region

By Talha Ozturk

BELGRADE, Serbia (AA) – A meeting of ministers of culture of member states of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization (BSEC) was held Friday in the Serbian capital, Belgrade.

The meeting was chaired by Serbian Minister of Culture and Information Vladan Vukosavljevic. Turkey's Deputy Minister of Culture and Tourism Omer Arisoy also attended the meeting.

A joint declaration related to the priorities and goals of regional cooperation in the field of culture — "Belgrade Declaration" — was signed.

Vukosavljevic said that intercultural dialogue contributes to a better understanding of individual cultures, as well as the entire region.

"Culture becomes a strong weapon in the struggle to build an inclusive society in the Black Sea region, which accepts all our diversity. An environment is created that encourages creativity and a variety of expressions," said Vukosavljevic.

The Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization (BSEC) was established in 1992, with headquarters in Istanbul with the aim to act in a spirit of friendship and good neighborliness and enhance mutual respect and confidence, dialogue and cooperation among the member states.

The group has 12 members; Turkey, Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Serbia, and Ukraine.

This is the first high-level conference in the field of culture after 11 years. The last such conference was held in Greece in 2007.

Prior to the meeting of the BSEC member states, Vukosavljevic and Arisoy held bilateral talks which were attended by Ambassador of Turkey to Serbia Tanju Bilgic, as well as representatives of Turkish institutions in Serbia.

Russian jet intercepts US Navy plane over Black Sea

By Elena Teslova

MOSCOW (AA) – A Russian Su-27 fighter jet intercepted a U.S. Navy reconnaissance plane Monday over the Black Sea, but the incident was resolved without any hostilities.

The incident took place Monday morning when the Russian military detected an unknown aircraft around 10 a.m. Moscow time (0700GMT), Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a statement.

The Russian jet approached and identified the aircraft as a U.S. Navy EP-3E Aries spy plane, it said.

The Su-27 then “accompanied it, preventing violations of the border of the airspace of the Russian Federation in compliance with all necessary security measures", the statement added.

After resolving the issue “in a safe manner,” the Su-27 returned to its base.

The duration of the intercept was about 25 minutes, during which the Su-27 made two passes near the EP-3E aircraft.

In a statement, the U.S. Navy said their plane had to apply its afterburner after the first pass and faced turbulence and vibrations.

"While the Russian military is within its right to exercise within international airspace, this interaction was irresponsible," the U.S. Navy said. "We expect them to behave within international standards set to ensure safety and to prevent incidents."

*Umar Farooq contributed to this story.

Turkey exports 58,000+ tons of hazelnut in Sept-Oct

By Muhammed Ali Gurtas

ANKARA (AA) – Turkey's hazelnut exports totaled 58,286 tons in the September-October period of 2018, a regional union announced on Friday.

During the first two months in the season, the country earned $314.3 million from hazelnut exports, the Black Sea Hazelnut and Products Exporters' Union (KFMIB) said in a report.

The EU was the top market for Turkey's hazelnut exports with 77.3 percent of total exports, amounting to 45,077 tons.

The KFMIB noted that 45.3 percent of the country's hazelnut exports was processed products worth $148.5 million, as the rest were raw hazelnuts.

Turkey — world's largest hazelnut exporter — earned $1.78 billion with nearly 287,000 tons of hazelnut exports last season, from September 2017 to the end of August 2018.