Kyrgyzstan says agreed ceasefire with Tajikistan after border clashes
Kyrgyzstan said Thursday it had quickly agreed a ceasefire with Tajikistan after the heaviest clashes in years erupted along the Central Asian countries’ disputed frontier.
Kyrgyzstan’s foreign ministry said in a statement that a “complete ceasefire” had been agreed from 8:00 pm (1400 GMT) on Thursday, with military forces returning to bases.
The two neighbours have been locked in border disputes for decades and there have been sporadic clashes along the frontier for years.
But Thursday’s outbreak of fighting involving their two militaries was rare and raised fears of the clashes escalating into a wider conflict.
Before the ceasefire was announced, both sides said their forces had clashed, while Kyrgyzstan said its troops had seized a border post.
Kyrgyzstan’s health ministry said in a statement that it had suffered 17 casualties, including one fatality.
Tajikistan’s security committee said two people had been admitted to hospital with gunshot wounds, one of whom was in a serious condition.
The fighting followed a reported conflict over water infrastructure at the frontier between the two, which both gained independence with the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.
More than a third of the border is disputed, with the area surrounding the de-facto Tajik enclave of Vorukh, where Thursday’s conflict erupted, a regular flashpoint over territorial claims and access to water.
Kyrgyzstan’s national security committee said in a statement that one of its special military units seized the border post from Tajikistan after heavy shelling from Tajik forces set a Kyrgyz border post on fire.
The foreign ministry of Uzbekistan, the most populous country in the region and a neighbour of both countries, had earlier called for the “immediate cessation of hostilities” and offered to assist in resolving the crisis.
Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters that Moscow was monitoring the conflict.
Conflict over water
Kyrgyz media published photos of Kyrgyzstan’s border post — called “Dostuk”, or “friendship” — engulfed in flames after the attack.
The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement said it had assisted in evacuating more than 600 people from a village at the border to the region’s administrative centre Batken.
Images released by the group showed children bedding down in temporary accommodation.
Tajikistan’s security committee accused Kyrgyz servicemen of opening fire on Tajik troops “at the site of the Golovnaya water distribution point, located in the upper reaches of the Isfara River” on Thursday.
It said Kyrgyz and Tajik civilians had on Wednesday become embroiled in a conflict over river infrastructure.
Seven Tajik nationals were injured after Kyrgyz threw stones at them, it said.
The outbreak of violence came as Kyrgyzstan’s national security chief Kamchibek Tashiyev, a nationalist who is a close ally of President Sadyr Japarov, was reported as having left the country to seek medical treatment.
Tashiyev later wrote on Facebook that he was returning home “without even reaching the hospital.”
“I urge you all to be tolerant. National borders are more precious than life,” Tashiyev wrote.
Japarov, who was elected in January, held a security council meeting Thursday as protesters at a small rally in central Bishkek called for him, Tashiyev and Prime Minister Ulugbek Maripov to resign over the border flare-up.
Border disagreements between the three countries that share the fertile Fergana Valley — Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan — have their roots in border demarcations during the Soviet Union.
The knotting, twisting frontiers left several communities with restricted access to their home countries.
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