Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan agree to ceasefire after deadly border dispute

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  • Kyrgyz and Tajik leaders met and agreed to a cease-fire
  • The fighting escalated from gunfire to tanks and rocket artillery
  • Kyrgyzstan says that Tajik forces entered a Kyrgyz village
  • Conflict stems from disputed borders

BISHKEK (Reuters) – The office of Kyrgyzstan’s president, Sadir Gaberov, and his Tajik counterpart Emomali Rahmon said they agreed to order a ceasefire and troop withdrawal at a meeting in Uzbekistan on Friday, after deadly clashes between the two Russian allies.

The former Soviet republics accused each other earlier of resuming fighting in a disputed area, leaving at least three dead and dozens wounded.

The Kyrgyz border guards said in a statement that the ceasefire will take effect from 16:00 local time (10:00 GMT). The Tajik authorities confirmed that the agreement had been reached.

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Moscow called earlier on Friday for a cessation of hostilities.

Kyrgyzstan said that Tajik forces, using tanks, armored personnel carriers, and mortars, entered at least one Kyrgyz village and bombed the airport of the Kyrgyz town of Bat Kain and its vicinity.

In turn, Tajikistan accused Kyrgyz forces of bombing a settlement outpost and seven villages with “heavy weapons” in the same area, which is famous for the geography of a political and ethnic jigsaw puzzle and became the site of similar hostilities last year, and nearly led to war.

Authorities in the Tajik city of Asfara said one civilian was killed and three wounded. Two Tajik border guards were killed earlier this week.

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Kyrgyzstan reported that 31 people were injured overnight in the southern Bat Kain province which borders northern Tajikistan’s Sughd region and includes Tajikistan’s Vorokh region, a major hotspot in recent conflicts.

Gabrov and Rakhmon attended the regional security and cooperation summit in Uzbekistan on Friday. Neither of them mentioned the conflict in their speeches at the event, which was attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin and other leaders.

Clashes at poorly demarcated borders are frequent, but usually decline rapidly.

Soviet legacy

Border issues in Central Asia largely stem from the Soviet era when Moscow attempted to divide the region between ethnic groups whose settlements were often located amidst those of other races.

Both countries host Russian military bases.

Timur Umarov, a fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace that focuses on Central Asia, said that remote farming villages in the middle of the conflict are not of economic importance, but that both sides have given them exaggerated political importance.

Umarov said the governments of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan had begun to rely on what he called “nationalist populist rhetoric” that made land swaps to end the conflict impossible.

Alexander Knyazev, another Central Asia analyst, said the two sides had shown no desire to resolve the conflict peacefully, and that mutual territorial claims had provoked hostile attitudes at all levels.

He said only third-party peacekeepers can prevent further conflicts by creating a demilitarized zone in the area.

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(Reporting by Olga Dzyubenko) Additional reporting by Nazarali Bernazarov in Dushanbe; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Guy Faulconbridge, Frank Jack Daniel and Raju Gopalakrishnan

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Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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