Uzbek, Kyrgyz officials gather over border standoff

Commanders of Kyrgyz and Uzbek border guards hold meeting to discuss tense situation at border

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

A Kyrgyz border guard at a frontier post on the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border

Commanders of Kyrgyz and Uzbek border guards met on Friday for the first time since both sides deployed troops and armoured vehicles in a disputed area, Kyrgyzstan's border guard service said in a statement.

"The meeting has been initiated by the Uzbek side," it said, adding that the two heads of border guard services met at a border crossing in another, quiet area. It provided no other details.

The border zone, which is not clearly demarcated, is a source of bilateral tension. Uzbekistan stationed two armoured personnel carriers and about 40 soldiers near the Kyrgyz town of Kerben last week, prompting smaller Kyrgyzstan to send two of its own APCs and a similar number of troops.

Both sides say the confrontation is taking place on their side of the frontier.

It has sparked public protests on the Kyrgyz side and Kyrgyz president Almazbek Atambayev on Thursday accused his political opponents of trying to destabilise the country by escalating the border standoff.

A Reuters correspondent saw four APCs, two on each side, and about 20 armed servicemen, also split equally, in the disputed area on Friday.

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 in Moscow.

Uzbekistan has not commented on the matter since a statement run by Uzbek media a week ago, which said it had reinforced its side of the border because the frontier had been temporarily closed due to road repairs and a public holiday.

TRTWorld, Reuters