The deployment of four NATO warships in the Black Sea was planned more than a year ago and has nothing to do with the latest developments in nearby Georgia, the alliance said Thursday, reported dpa.
The statement from Brussels follows expressions of concern by Russian officials at what they call a "buildup" of NATO ships in the area.
"This deployment is routine in nature and has been planned for over a year, notification of the requirement to transit the Turkish Straits was given in June, well before the current Georgia crisis and is completely unrelated," NATO said.
A NATO spokeswoman stressed that "there is no NATO naval build-up" and that the fleet's exercises would be limited to "the Western part of the Black Sea."
NATO's fleet is currently stationed in the Romanian port of Constanta and is ready to carry out exercises with Bulgarian and Romanian ships, NATO said. It comprises the Spanish SPS Adm Juan de Bourbon, the German FGS Luebeck, the Polish ORP General K Pulaski and the US frigate USS Taylor.
This list does not include other warships from NATO member states that may be sailing in the Black Sea but that are not under NATO command.
The alliance also sought to reassure Russia that its fleet would only be stationed in the Black Sea for a maximum of 21 days, as stated under the terms of the Montreux Convention. dpa nr ds