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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Plans for Black Sea 'Ring Road'

BELGRADE -- The countries sharing the shores of the Black Sea and a few neighboring states announced plans Thursday to bolster economic and other cooperation in their oil-rich region, including the construction of a "ring road" around the sea.

The foreign ministers of Russia, Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Moldova and Ukraine convened in Belgrade along with counterparts from Greece, Albania and the host country -- all members of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization.

The participants signed a "memorandum of mutual understanding" to launch projects for the more than 2,000-kilometer highway whose cost is yet to be determined, possibly at a group summit scheduled for June 25 in Istanbul, Turkey. The "ring road" is expected to become a major transport corridor, along with a planned improvement of links among Black Sea ports.

"We are making history today," said group secretary-general Leonidas Chrysanthopoulos.

Founded in 1992, the organization's states have a combined population of about 400 million, vast natural resources and developing ties with the European Union. Three member countries -- Greece, Romania and Bulgaria -- are also EU members.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov praised the "huge potential" of the Black Sea states and pledged to "develop new, practical areas of cooperation."