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KYRGYZSTAN-UZBEKISTAN: Concerns over tension in Uzbek enclave border areas


BISHKEK, (IRIN): Confrontation last week between the residents of two villages on both sides of the border of an Uzbek enclave in Kyrgyzstan highlights the risk of further conflict over the use of natural resources in Ferghana Valley, according to analysts.

Shared by Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, the rich and fertile Ferghana Valley is Central Asia's most densely populated area with some 11 million residents. Since the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Ferghana Valley has had intermittent localized conflicts over water and land.

Over the past week, local media reported sporadic violence between some Kyrgyz residents of Sogment village passing through Hushyar village in the Uzbek enclave of Sokh. Sogment residents said about 10 cars belonging to them were damaged by Hushyar villagers and drivers and passengers were beaten up. Kyrgyz villagers reportedly blocked the road linking the enclave with the Uzbek mainland.

Some local NGO activists said the issue of pastures was the primary reason for this recent tension as parts of the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border had not been demarcated or delimited since the Soviet break-up, causing disputes over land and resources.

"The situation is quite tense," Nazgul Aldasheva, a programme officer with local NGO For International Tolerance in the southern Kyrgyz province of Batken, told IRIN.

On 27 May, Kyrgyz officials closed the enclave border post of Kaytpas and Hushyar residents were prevented from grazing their animals on pastures that the Kyrgyz say is in Kyrgyzstan, and Hushyar villagers say is part of the Uzbek enclave.

On 1 June, 500-1,000 people, mainly men, gathered on each side of the enclave border ready for confrontation. Following a meeting between the heads of border services, respective governors and local administration officials the two sides agreed to implement a series of measures to ease tensions and from 2 June the border posts were re-opened.

Aldasheva said the disputed pastures are in Kyrgyz territory. "However, as the Uzbeks have not made an agreement with Kyrgyzstan on this issue, local Uzbek residents cannot graze their cattle on those pastures anymore," Aldasheva said. "Despite that, they have demanded free access to them quite aggressively."

While there has not been any statement from the Uzbek authorities on the issue, Mansurjan Mamajanov, a senior Sokh enclave official, said on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that the issue of pastures was important for Hushyar residents.

"There is a need for Gosregitr [land registry] officials from both sides to meet and discuss this issue. Hushyar officials say those pastures are in their territory based on land registry maps," Mamajanov said.

Analysts said that the underlying cause of the tension - disputed borders - needed to be resolved.

"Conflicts on the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border have always been there and it is no wonder. Unless the issue of border demarcation and delimitation is resolved such clashes will continue to erupt," local analyst Marat Kazakpayev told IRIN in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek. However, he said it was not likely that the recent incident in Sokh enclave would escalate into something major.


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