Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan in dispute over border area

BISHKEK (TCA) — Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan have placed armored vehicles and soldiers near a disputed border area as heightened tensions have prompted the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) to meet in Moscow, RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service reported.

The majority of the twisting 1,314-kilometer-long Uzbek-Kyrgyz border is still undefined, and conflicts on and near border crossings are often violent.

The current quarrel centers around a small mountain known in Uzbek as Ungar-Tepa and Unkur-Too in Kyrgyz, which lies on the undemarcated Kyrgyz-Uzbek border about 10 kilometers from the western Kyrgyz town of Kerben.

On March 18, two Uzbek armored personnel carriers and some 40 soldiers suddenly appeared at the border crossing near Ungar-Tepa at a place called Chala-Sart in Kyrgyz.

The Uzbek maneuver was considered by Kyrgyz officials to be a violation of bilateral agreements between Bishkek and Tashkent not to “militarize” a tense situation along their common border.

Kyrgyzstan responded by sending dozens of armed border guards to the frontier as well as moving members of its special forces unit, the Scorpions, to the area.

The tense situation and perhaps Uzbekistan’s massive military advantage over Kyrgyzstan led Bishkek to call for the CSTO’s Permanent Council to hold an “extraordinary session” on the issue.

The CSTO — which Uzbekistan left in 2012 — met on March 22 and “expressed concern” with the situation. It also agreed to send its deputy secretary-general, Ara Badalian, to the disputed area to study the situation.

Kyrgyz opposition leaders have sharply criticized the country’s government for its weak response to the moves by Uzbekistan.

At a rally in Kerben on March 22, Voice of the People opposition movement leader Azimbek Beknazarov told an agitated crowd of a few hundred people that Kyrgyz officials “have never been able to talk to foreigners, to the authorities of other countries, as equal partners.”

“And because of this we have surrendered Kyrgyz territory to China,” he said in a reference to Kyrgyzstan ceding thousands of square kilometers of its Uzengu-Kuush region to Beijing in 1999.

Kyrgyz Prime Minister Temir Sariyev traveled to the remote site to address the crowd.

“I have always said that the most difficult issue faced by our nation is about our borders in the south…. All the issues raised here today are currently under discussion, and we have been doing everything to resolve the situation,” Sariyev said.

“There is no need to worsen the situation,” he added. “Let us stay away from hot emotions…. We will resolve the issue.”

As of March 23, most of the armed guards and troops on both sides of the border had been pulled back to secondary positions, although the armored personnel carriers remained.


Times of Central Asia