• Home
  • Cautious Hopes Mounting for Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan Border Deal

13 October 2023

Cautious Hopes Mounting for Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan Border Deal

At present, around one-third of the border remains undefined.

Cautious Hopes Mounting for Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan Border Deal

Image: president.kg

(Eurasianet) The presidents of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan met on October 13 for talks on the demarcation and delimitation of their shared border amid indications that some differences have been resolved.

The offices of the leaders issued similarly worded statements on the encounter in Bishkek, noting in both cases that unspecified agreements are in the works.

A breakthrough in the border delimitation would be eagerly welcome by communities in the areas of north Tajikistan and south Kyrgyzstan, where flareups of fighting over recent years have left many dozens dead and caused significant destruction. 

A press release on the October 13 talks from Tajik President Emomali Rahmon’s office asserted that “special attention was paid to the issues of determining the state border line" and that “agreements were reached on this matter some time ago.” A readout from Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov’s office, meanwhile, was more circumspect, noting only that the leaders discussed “delimitation and demarcation of the Kyrgyz-Tajik state border.”

The Kyrgyz-Tajik border stretches for approximately 980 kilometers. Fraught negotiations on establishing the exact contours of that line have been ongoing since December 2002. At present, around one-third of the border remains undefined. 

There may latterly have been some breakthrough, however.

Kyrgyz government sources have said that the border issue was discussed on October 2 by the heads of the powerful security services of both countries during a meeting in the Kyrgyz city of Batken.

Kamchybek Tashiyev, the head of Kyrgyzstan’s State Committee for National Security, or GKNB, said in a joint press conference with his Tajik counterpart, Saimumin Yatimov, that their meeting had produced a “protocol” that would provide the basis for resolving all border issues.

“God willing, we will soon adopt final decision so as to complete the demarcation of the entire state border,” Tashiyev said.

No details were provided, but at least one journalist said to be close to Tashiyev has characterized the talks as having produced “historic” results. 

“The Tajik side has been trying to resolve this problem in its favor by breaking us through various means, including by use of force,” the journalist, Nurgazy Anarkulov, wrote on his Facebook page. “Following the commission on the Kyrgyz-Tajik border headed by Kamchybek Tashiyev, the ice began to shift. Sometimes we [Kyrgyzstan] had to speak in soft and diplomatic language, most of the time in [the language of] sharp ultimatums. When patience ran out, we were forced to make demands by relying on historical documents.”

Anarkulov offered no details on what the protocol contains, but he claimed that Tajikistan had relinquished territorial claims dating back three decades.

Neither Kyrgyz nor Tajik officials have responded to these specific claims. 

The reference to unnamed historical documents was a callback to contentious remarks made by Tashiyev in mid-September. Speaking to reporters, Tashiyev demanded in notably aggressive terms that Tajikistan relinquish its territorial claims to sections of the contested border. He was speaking on the eve of the first anniversary of a border conflict that claimed dozens of lives.

“Until now, we have tried to resolve this issue peacefully, and we will continue to do so. Our head of state has directed us to resolve issues through negotiations. But at the same time, it must be said that an act of aggression was committed against our state last year. We will not allow such aggression in future,” Tashiyev said. He added that Kyrgyzstan's demands were supported by historic documents.

His remarks sparked a tetchy response from Tajikistan’s Foreign Ministry, which summoned the Kyrgyz ambassador in Dushanbe for an explanation. 

“It [is] stressed that such comments could cause serious damage to any progress in the negotiation process on the delimitation and demarcation of the Tajik-Kyrgyz border,” the ministry said in a statement on September 16. 

While tempers have flared lower in the two countries’ respective hierarchies, Japarov and Rahmon have sought to strike conciliatory notes on the multiple times they have met in recent weeks.