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Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan agree to withdraw troops

May 1, 2021

Both sides agreed to pull their forces back just days after fighting killed dozens of people. But tensions remain high following the worst confrontations between the two countries in recent memory.

Kyrgyzstan emergency serviceman carries mattesses for evacuees
Hundreds of people were forced from their homes due to the violenceImage: AFP

Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan agreed on Saturday to withdraw their troops from their shared border after intense fighting this week killed more than 30 people and injured hundreds.

The presidents of both countries spoke by telephone and pledged to maintain a cease-fire. This was the second time that Kyrgyz President Sadyr Zhaparov and Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon spoke in two days. The two countries' national security leaders also spoke and agreed to pull back their troops.

Tensions remain high

Kyrgyzstan accused Tajikistan of building up troops and military equipment near the border on Saturday before the agreement.

"In breach of bilateral agreements on withdrawing troops to their bases, the other side continues bringing more troops and heavy hardware to its border with Kyrgyzstan," said the Kyrgyz border guard service in a statement.

Rally demanding an end to Kyrgyz-Tajik border conflict
People rallied in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, demanding an end to the violenceImage: Erkin Sadykov/Sputnik/dpa/picture alliance

Border guards said one Kyrgyz area that is home to thousands of people was cut off from the rest of the country. They claimed Tajik troops had blocked a road that crosses disputed territory, but later in the day traffic resumed in adherence to the new agreement.

Kyrgyzstan's national security committee said Tajikistan's military had "opened fire on dwellings" in the southwestern Kyrgyz region of Batken.

Why were the countries fighting?

The fighting broke out after Tajik officials attempted to place surveillance cameras to monitor a water supply facility on the Isfara River near the Kyrgyz village of Kok-Tash. Both countries have claimed the area around the facility in a dispute that dates back to when both countries were part of the Soviet Union.

Kyrgyzstan residents opposed the surveillance attempt, and people from both countries began throwing stones at each other before troops entered the fray.

Kyrgyz officials reported at least 33 people died in the fighting. The country announced two days of mourning after the violence. Tajikistan did not report casualties on their side, but media reports said about eight people were killed, including four border guards.

Both Uzbekistan and Russia, which maintains ties to both countries, have offered to mediate the latest conflict.

Russia said it hoped the former two former Soviet republics, both of which host Russian military bases, would "strictly follow the commitments made" during talks, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

kbd/sms (AFP, AP, Reuters)