Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan trade blame over new border attacks

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan – The Central Asian republics of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan traded new accusations on Saturday over a ceasefire breach at their border where deadly clashes broke out over the past days.

Border disagreements have dogged the ex-Soviet republics throughout their three-decade independence with around half of their 970km-long frontier still contested.

The incidents took place in the southern Kyrgyz regions of Osh and Batken.

The two sides agreed a ceasefire on Friday and Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmon met his Kyrgyz counterpart Sadyr Japarov at a summit in Uzbekistan.

But the two countries traded blame for ceasefire violations only a few hours later.

On Saturday morning, Kyrgyz border authorities accused Tajik armed forces of attacking several border areas and settlements, including in the southern regions of Batken and Osh.

Talks between border guards from both sides took place in the Osh region during the day, according to Bishkek, which said this helped put an end to Tajik fire on three villages by midday.

Tajik border guards also said they would meet on Saturday with representatives of the two sides to “discuss the stabilisation of the situation” and the “withdrawal of forces” sent to reinforce the border in the face of tensions.

But Dushanbe also accused the Kyrgyz army of firing twice in the morning on Tajik positions.

Tajik border guards said the situation was “relatively stable” at 10am (1pm Singapore time) in a statement to official news agency Khovar.

But they still accused the Kyrgyz army of violating the ceasefire and “deploying military reinforcements” at the border.

“Tajik border areas are being fired at from the settlements of Samarkandek and Koktosh in the Batken region (of Kyrgyzstan),” Tajik border officials said.

Fears of larger conflict

At least 24 people have died and 122 people have been injured in the clashes, including children, according to the Kyrgyz health ministry.

In the Batken region, Kyrgyz authorities declared a state of emergency and the head of Kyrgyzstan’s State Committee for National Security, Kamchybek Tashiev, visited the scene to “coordinate the resolution of the situation.”