Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan move to end border clashes but tensions remain high on ill-defined frontier

Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan move to end border clashes but tensions remain high on ill-defined frontier

Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan have agreed a ceasefire after shooting along their contested border left two Tajiks dead last week.

Kyrgyz and Tajik communities on the border regularly clash over territorial and water disputes.

Tajikistan’s national security committee said six servicemen and four civilians were injured on the Tajik side in Thursday’s violence.

It said a man was killed by a mortar fired by Kyrgyz soldiers at his house and an ambulance driver died.

Many in Kyrgyzstan believe Tajikistan welcomes border hostilities as a pretext to seize land.

Kyrgyzstan’s national security committee said it agreed “a complete ceasefire” with Tajikistan, withdrawing forces, coordinating border patrols and ensuring a road linking Central Asia’s two poorest countries stays open.

An estimated 1,500 Kyrgyz citizens were evacuated from near the intersection of northern Sughd province in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan’s southwestern Batken province, the emergencies ministry in Kyrgyzstan said.

Border clashes last year left more than 50 people dead.

This month, Kyrgyz national, Khudayberdi Begmuradov, 68, died in a Tajik prison after reportedly unlawfully crossing the border.

Begmuradov previously lived in the Tajik village of Madaniyat but had moved to Kyrgyzstan. He regularly visited relatives in Tajikistan and was reportedly detained in the town of Konibodom on the border with Uzbekistan.

Begmuradov’s relatives said his body was covered in bruises.

Almost half of the 970km border is disputed and delimitation efforts have made slow progress.

Kyrgyz parliamentarian Sultanbai Aizhigitov accused Tajikistan of repeatedly generating border tension.

“The death of our citizen in a Tajik prison was not accidental,” Aizhigitov told Eurasianet. “This is only deepening the wave of discontent among the population whose relatives are still serving sentences in … Tajikistan.”

He said arrests for illegal border crossings were entirely arbitrary since there is often no demarcation. Farmers cross the ill-defined border to recover wandering cattle, which move freely because of the lack of fencing.

Aizhigitov added: “Our border guards release Tajik violators, limit themselves to preventive measures, thereby avoiding the escalation of already unfriendly relations. Why don’t they do the same?”

Reliable information about the region is limited.

Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov posted on Facebook: “Do not believe the false information spread for the purpose of escalating the situation by individual media and politicians who pursue interests of other countries.”

A burned-out BTR-60 marks an earlier bilateral border conflict. Picture credit: YouTube

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