Bishkek: Kyrgyzstan said that at least 31 people were killed after a serious conflict with Tajikistan’s disputed border. This is when officials from the former two Soviet countries met on Friday to ease tensions.
Along the long-term disputed border between the pair, conflicts between communities on land and water are frequent events, and border guards are often involved.
However, the gun battle that broke out between the two armies on Thursday was the fiercest battle in years and raised concerns that it might escalate into a wider conflict.
Tajikistan is a closed, authoritarian state that has not officially recognized any deaths caused by the clashes between its soldiers on Thursday.
The Kyrgyz health ministry said Friday that Kyrgyzstan had suffered at least 154 casualties, including 31 deaths in the latest bout of violence.
The leaders of both sides remained in touch Friday, offering hope that the conflict — which began after communities clashed over an important piece of river infrastructure — can be cooled.
President Sadyr Japarov of Kyrgyzstan and Tajik counterpart Emomali Rakhmon spoke by telephone on Friday, Japarov s press service said, and agreed to meet “in the second half of May”.
“The heads of state agreed to resolve the current situation exclusively by peaceful means,” the statement said.
Kyrgyzstan s national security chief Kamchibek Tashiyev told journalists that he had met with Tajik counterpart Saimumin Yatimov on “neutral territory” at the border on Friday.
Tashiyev pledged that problems over their shared border will be resolved “in the next few days”.
The press of the Tajik government stated in a rare speech in Tajikistan that the Kyrgyzstan-Tajik joint working group “is working towards the hope of peace and friendship.”
Local authorities in the Batken region in southwest Kyrgyzstan said that despite the ceasefire, shooting along the “common border” is still taking place “on a regular basis.”
Kyrgyzstan authorities say that more than 10,000 Kyrgyzstans have been evacuated from the two areas bordering Tajikistan, where the fighting is the most intense.
More than a third of the two impoverished, mountainous countries border is disputed, with the area surrounding the Tajik enclave of Vorukh, where Thursday s conflict erupted, a regular flashpoint over territorial claims and access to water.
On Friday, neighbouring Uzbekistan s leader Shavkat Mirziyoyev s office said he had held separate talks by telephone with Tajik leader Emomali Rakhmon and Kyrgyz president Sadyr Japarov aimed at easing the conflict.