BISHKEK (Reuters) - Kyrgyzstan initiated a special meeting of a Russia-led regional security body on Tuesday to address tensions with its bigger neighbor Uzbekistan after a group of Uzbek armored vehicles and troops were deployed near their disputed border.
The incident has not led to any violence, but underlined the strained relations between the ex-Soviet Central Asian republics and increased domestic pressure on Kyrgyz authorities to resolve frontier issues.
Kyrgyzstan’s foreign ministry said “an extraordinary session” of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, grouping a number of ex-Soviet republics, was held on Tuesday in Moscow and it was agreed to “monitor the situation”.
The CTSO will reconvene on Wednesday to discuss the matter further, the ministry said in a statement.
Uzbekistan at the end of last week stationed two armored personnel carriers and about 40 soldiers in an area where its Namangan region borders Kyrgyzstan’s western Jalalabad region.
Kyrgyzstan, in turn, reinforced its own side of the border, which in the area in question has not been clearly or officially defined, making it a constant source of bilateral friction.
Uzbekistan has since withdrawn the armored vehicles and both countries have withdrawn most of the deployed soldiers, leaving only a few border guards in the vicinity, the Kyrgyz official news agency Kabar said.
Kyrgyz Prime Minister Temir Sariyev visited the Jalalabad region on Tuesday, urging worried local residents to stay calm, the government said in a statement.
“We will resolve the border issues but that requires time and a diplomatic approach,” it quoted him as saying.
Uzbekistan’s foreign ministry had no immediate comment on Tuesday. The private Uzbek news agency Novosti Uzbekistana quoted the country’s Border Guard Service as saying that the reinforcement on its side of the border arose from a temporary closure of the border crossing point during road repairs.
Jalalabad was hit by clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks living in the area in 2010, when the government declared a state of emergency there and sent special forces to the city.
Reporting by Olga Dzyubenko; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Mark Heinrich