In a statement on 16 September 2022 regarding the border conflicts between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan that started on 14 September 2022, the Ministry of Health of Kyrgyzstan announced that 163 people were injured and 59 people died.i According to the official statement made on the same day from Tajikistan, 46 people lost their lives.ii Due to the conflicts, approximately 150 thousand people were evacuated from Batken and Leylek towns of Kyrgyzstan and Isfara.
As it is known, after the collapse of the Soviet Union between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, there have been frequent border conflicts, which are still continuing. The main reason for this is that the borders between the parties have not been determined and both countries have claims on some border regions. Despite this, it is possible to say that the parties have a strong will to resolve the issue. It is also possible to see this situation from the approach of the two heads of state who came together at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Leaders’ Summit held in the historical city of Samarkand in Uzbekistan on September 15-16, 2022.
As it will be remembered, the President of Tajikistan, Mr. Emomali Rahmon, made it clear that he favored solving the problems on the Kyrgyz-Tajik border through negotiations during a meeting with the local people in the border town of Isfara on April 17, 2022. In addition, 663.7 km of the 987 km border line; that is, 68.4% said that a consensus was reached on the point of determination. In addition, Rahmon emphasized that seeking a mutually beneficial solution takes time and requires patience.
Similarly, on April 16, 2022, President of Kyrgyzstan Mr. Sadyr Japarov announced that an agreement had been reached on 664 km of the 972 km border between the two countries. Japarov stated that 308 km of the border issue is still unsolved and that the process is progressing slowly, and therefore it is important not to fall for provocations.
However, it is seen that the border conflicts between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have intensified in the last few years. Although some negotiations were made by providing a ceasefire thanks to the leaders who acted with common sense during the conflict periods, the frequent conflicts make the ceasefire fragile.
Despite this, the continuation of consultations between border commissions reflects a constructive stance. As a matter of fact, a meeting was held at the Guliston-Avtodorozhnyy checkpoint of Tajikistan on March 12, 2022. The Kyrgyz side was represented by the Head of The Border Guard Service of the State Committee for National Security, Commander of the Border Troops of the State Committee, Ularbek Sharsheev, and the Plenipotentiary Representative of the Batken Region, Abdikarim Alimbayev. Tajikistan was represented by National Security Officer Rajabali Rahmonali and Sughd Region President Rajabboy Ahmadzoda. After the negotiations, the parties announced that they had reached an agreement on some issues. The issues that were agreed upon were:
- The parties agreed to take strict measures to implement intergovernmental agreements and protocols on the coordination of efforts to prevent incidents in the border regions of the two countries.
- The border representatives of the two countries agreed to carry out explanatory work between the military personnel and to take care not to give in to the provocations of the them. In that sense, the parties declared that they will adopt a more constructive attitude in possible crisis situations.
- It has been decided that the border representatives of the parties will be in constant communication.
- Military personnel of the two countries are prohibited from using weapons, except as required by the legal regulations of both sides.
After the meeting between the delegations, Batken and Sughd Regional Representatives held a separate meeting and discussed the economic activities of the people living in the border regions of the two countries. It is extremely important that these decisions, and therefore the sensitive approach that is far from emotional, are also displayed in current conflicts in terms of preventing a great war.
As it is known, the border problems between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan and the territorial claims that came to the agenda; are the water problem, smuggling activities and the threat of occupation by armed groups, especially terrorist organizations, which frequently bring the two countries face to face.
Due to these problems, tensions are rising among the people living in the region. As it will be remembered, approximately 20 people from both sides lost their lives in the armed conflict in border regions such as Ak-Say, Ak-Tatır and Samarkandır in April 2021. In addition, 150 people were injured.
Similarly, on January 27, 2022, Tajikistan decided to close the Batken-Isfana highway of the Tort-Koço campus of the Batken district, after which the Kyrgyz border forces tried to prevent this attempt. Thus, conflicts broke out in the region once again. However, also at that time, a ceasefire was reached after the negotiations between the parties that took care to act in common sense. In the context of the ceasefire, the agreement was reached on the following issues:
- Ensuring a complete ceasefire
- Both sides withdraw their soldiers to barracks
- Opening of traffic on the Batken-Isfana road
- Joint patrol in the border regions of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan law enforcement to prevent conflicts
In addition, the parties agreed to establish a joint commission to detect conflicts in the border regions. In short, both Bishkek and Dushanbe prevent the crises from growing with their peaceful and constructive attitude, despite the examples where the conflict has turned into hot conflicts. Despite this, 70 settlements on the Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan border are still in dispute.
On the other hand, one of the most important reasons why the border disputes that marked the Tajikistan-Kyrgyzstan relations could not be resolved is the equal power of the parties. Because neither side can put pressure on the other, nor does it want to make concessions. Moreover, the absence of mutual dependence between the parties and the absence of processes based on economic-commercial cooperation also prevent the crisis from being overcome. But both Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are aware of this situation. Therefore, it can be predicted that the negotiation processes between the two countries will be strengthened by relations that will create mutual economic dependence.
As a result, the tension between the parties will not end, and conflicts will occur from time to time until the borders between the two countries are determined. Although the parties have declared that they want to solve the border problems by peaceful methods, there is a need to support this with economic processes. Undoubtedly, such a step would remove the Fergana Valley from being an area of instability and conflict; will turn it into a basin of peace.
i “Вторжение в Кыргызстан. Пострадавших 163, погибших 59”, 24KG, https://24.kg/proisshestvija/245566_vtorjenie_vkyirgyizstan_postradavshih_163_pogibshih59/, (Date of Accession : 19.09.2022).
ii “МИД Таджикистана: “Акт агрессии Кыргызстана против Таджикистана был заранее спланированной акцией””, AsiaPlus, https://asiaplustj.info/ru/news/tajikistan/20220919/mid-tadzhikistana-akt-agressii-kirgizstana-protiv-tadzhikistana-bil-zaranee-splanirovannoi-aktsiei, (Date of Accession: 19.09.2022).