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Central Asian states bicker over border

March 24, 2016

A border dispute between the two Central Asian nations is causing tension between the former Soviet republics. Both sides disagree over the route of the 300-kilometer (190-mile) frontier.

Grenze Kirgisien Usbekistan
Image: Imago/ITAR-TASS

Kyrgyzstan on Thursday accused neighboring Uzbekistan of building up its troop presence along the border in retaliation for Kyrgyzstan's attempt to reclaim a disputed water reservoir.

Kurbanbay Iskanderov, a Kyrgyz government envoy for border demarcation, told reporters on Thursday that the tensions were triggered by his government's decision to reclaim its control over Kyrgyz facilities in Uzbek use, including the reservoir 10 kilometers from the border.

"There are disputed portions on the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border that should be Kyrgyz, but they are used by Uzbekistan," Iskanderov said.

He said the Uzbek military was called to the border a few days after Kyrgyzstan denied Uzbek workers access to the reservoir in Ala-Buka.

But Uzbekistan has rejected accusations of a military buildup, saying that it was tightening security checks at the border ahead of the celebrations of Nowruz, the Persian New Year, which both countries observe.

Demarcation disagreements

The dispute is complicated by the fact that the two nations, formerly part of the Russian Empire and then the Soviet Union, never shared a border as sovereign states in the 20th century before independence in 1991.

Experts on both sides disagree which Soviet maps should be used for demarcation since the frontier was moved several times during the Soviet period.

Uzbekistan stationed two armored personnel carriers and about 40 soldiers last week in an area where its Namangan region borders Kyrgyzstan's western Jalalabad region. Kyrgyzstan, in turn, reinforced its own side.

Kyrgyzstan is also home to a sizable Uzbek minority, and ethnic tensions have simmered there for years. In 2010, at least 400 people were killed and thousands injured in unrest in the Kyrgyz city of Osh.

jar/msh (AP, Reuters)