Ceasefire Declared Following Deadly Kyrgyz-Tajik Border Clashes

The governments of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan say that they have reached an agreement for a ceasefire and withdrawal of military units of both countries involved in border skirmishes today. Fighting between the Kyrgz and Tajik military forces broke out following the death of two Kyrgyz civilians in clashes between local residents on the border that took place on 28 April.

The ceasefire will take effect at 8PM local time, following negotiations between Kyrgyzstan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ruslan Kazakbayev and his Tajik counterpart Sirojiddin Mukhriddin. Both countries emphasized the need to peacefully resolve the border disputes between the two countries through negotiations, with Kazakbayev saying that there was a need to build trust between the countries, particularly in border areas. As a first step, joint patrols are to be carried out, alongside the opening of direct lines of communications between the foreign ministries of the two countries and the two ministers in particular.

Soldiers on the move as gunfire is heard in the distance.

Additionally, heads of both countries’ law enforcement and security agencies are to meet in the coming hours to discuss their next steps to deescalate the situation. The Kyrgyz government also reports that Kyrgyz Prime Minister Ulukbek Maripov and Prime Minister of Tajikistan Kohir Rasulzoda have met in Kazan, with both said to have unanimously condemned the outbreak of violence and called for urgent action to prevent further escalations.

The State Border Service of the National Security Committee of Kyrgyzstan says that Tajik and Kyrgyz military units began exchanging fire around 2:05PM in the Golovnoi area, with the State Border Service claiming unspecified Kyrgrz military and civilian casualties in the fighting. At around 5PM, Tajik forces are alleged to have fired upon five Kyrgyz border outposts, with the Dostuk border outpost near the town of Batken set alight by Tajik mortar fire. In response to the attacks, the Kyrgyz government claims that a special task force has since seized Tajikistan’s Khoja A’llo border guard outpost, in addition to reinforcing military and law enforcement units in the area.

A building of the Dostuk border outpost burns after being hit by Tajik mortar fire.

The dispute that sparked the current fighting is said to be the installation of CCTV cameras on utility poles by Tajik border guards near the disputed Golovnoi water intake. Kyrgrz border guards arrived to demand the halting of CCTV installation, but negotiations ultimately stalled. Kyrgrz civilians later arrived and attempted to cut down one of the utility poles with a camera already installed, with Tajik civilians similarly attempting to stop them. The dispute then escalated to stone throwing and ultimately gunshots, although it is not currently known who cast the first stone.

Tajikistan’s State Committee for National Security accused Kyrgyzstan of shooting first in an attempt to seize the irrigation facility, insisting that the facility was located on Tajik land according to historic map data. The installation of the CCTVs and the resulting incident was not mentioned in its statement. For its part, the Kyrgyz State Border Service says that the water intake is under Kyrgyz “full control”.

The Golovnoi water intake facility at the heart of the recent clashes (via Akipress)

While both governments frequently speak of the need to peacefully negotiate a solution to their border disputes, little progress has been made since 2006 to resolve the approximately 460 kilometers of disputed borderline, even after a previous clash over Golovnoi in January 2014.