Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan defuse border tensions

Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan withdraw troops from disputed border territory after week of escalated tensions

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Kyrgyz and Uzbek troops are seen in a disputed area near the town of Kerben, Kyrgyzstan, March 25, 2016.

Kyrgyzstan and its bigger Central Asian neighbour Uzbekistan have ended a standoff over a disputed border area, pulling back troops and armoured vehicles, Kyrgyzstan's border guard service said on Saturday.

Kyrgyzstan's border guard service said in a statement that the meeting on Friday had been initiated by the Uzbek side, adding that two heads of border guard services met at a border crossing in another, quiet area. It provided no other details.

The confrontation between the two former Soviet republics began last week, triggering public protests on the Kyrgyz side where President Almazbek Atambayev has accused his opponents of using the border standoff to try to destabilise the country.

Uzbekistan at the time said it had reinforced its side of the border because the frontier had been temporarily closed due to road repairs and a public holiday.

A spokeswoman for the border guard service said both sides had removed their troops and armoured personnel carriers (APCs) from the area near the Kyrgyz town of Kerben on Saturday morning.

That part of the frontier is not clearly demarcated. Uzbekistan stationed two APCs and about 40 soldiers in the area last week, prompting smaller Kyrgyzstan to send two of its own APCs and a similar number of troops.

Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry said this week that the Bishkek government had demanded a complete withdrawal of Uzbek troops from the area. It has also called an urgent meeting of the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) in Moscow.

The CSTO is an intergovernmental military cooperation bloc formed in 1992 after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and currently comprises of former Soviet states Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan.

Uzbekistan suspended its membership to the bloc in 2012, citing concerns over “the CSTO’s strategic plans on Afghanistan” and “plans for boosting military cooperation between the CSTO states.''

TRTWorld, Reuters