In connection with the recent events in the Fergana Valley, the temporary closure of borders or the tightening of border regime between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan create additional difficulties for the local population of both countries. As a result, the conflict potential increases, which negatively affects the state relations of the neighboring republics.
Kyrgyz-Uzbek border contradictions most often occur in the Batken and Fergana regions. This is due to the fact that the Uzbek enclaves of Sokh and Shakhimardan are located on the territory of Kyrgyzstan. Residents of border areas several times a day have to cross the state border. For example, in order to get to the village of Pulgon of the Kadamzhai district, residents of the Kyrgyz-Kyshtak village cross the territory of Uzbekistan in four places. And the same difficulties are experienced by the population of the Uzbek enclaves that go beyond it.
However, since the beginning of the spring period, cases have become more frequent when representatives of local authorities appear in conflicts at the interstate level. After the Uzbek side cut off natural gas supply to neighbors due to non-payment, on April 13, Kyrgyz local leaders closed the Gazprom border post leading to the Severosokhskoye gas storage facility of Uzbekistan, located in the Burgandinsky massif of the Kadamjay region of Kyrgyzstan.
“Gas is produced on the territory of our country, and it should not have been turned off without informing us. In response to this, our demand now is the payment of land lease by the Uzbek side for the last 10 years, which is, according to our calculations, about 381 million soms (about $ 9.4 million), ”said Anvar Bilalov, deputy head of the Kadamzhai district administration.
After that, the citizens of Uzbekistan, working at the Northern Gas Storage, were forced to drive to work in a detour of the Gazprom post through Rishtan. Two days later, on April 15, 2006, the head of the Kuterma rural council of the Kadamzhai district, bordering the Shakhimardan enclave, Mahmud Toktorov arrived at the Ok Oktin children's camp in Uzbekistan. He told his workers about the need to liberate the adjacent territory of the camp, stating that these lands would be distributed to the residents of his village council. After the arrival of representatives of the Uzbek side, the meeting discussed issues of ownership of this territory, which is approximately 15 hectares.
But according to the NGO For International Tolerance (Bishkek), disputes over its affiliation between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan have been going on for over 10 years. According to Toktorov, representatives of the Uzbek side could not provide the necessary documents confirming the right to use this territory. In turn, the Kyrgyz side submitted a map of 1970, and at the same time set a condition to provide the neighbors with the necessary documents and pay the land tax.
“This territory was presented to the Uzbek side during the USSR in exchange for the fulfillment of the silk plan,” said 82-year-old local elder Abubakir Tashbaev. “The Uzbek side, in turn, at the same time unilaterally built a children's camp on this territory, using the land for other purposes.”
Another tension between neighbors occurred on May 5, 2006, when at the border post “Rishtan”, located on the border of the Kadamzhai region with Uzbekistan, Uzbek border guards did not let leaders of the Batken region across the border, which led to the closure of the Kyrgyz side. Governor Sultan Ayzhigitov and his retinue went to meet the residents of the Kyrgyz-Kyshtak village. After that, they were forced to go to the destination bypass road.
At the meeting, local residents raised the issue of the difficulties of crossing the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border, because in order to get to the district center, they have to cross the territory of Uzbekistan several times. Residents also complained that border guards were taking bribes for crossing the border. Ayzhigitov responded to what was happening by ordering the same day to close all border posts with Uzbekistan in the Batken region. The retaliatory measures followed immediately: the border guards of the Uzbek border post “Vadil” declared that they would block the border from their side. In this regard, the Kyrgyz side decided to open the border post "Pulgon", which is located next to the post "Vadil". The next morning, on May 6, 2006, the Uzbek border guards of the Sokh district tried to block traffic on the highway connecting the Kyrgyz village of Tayan with the regional center, where the Uzbek Sharhabad post operates.
That day, residents of Kyrgyzstan went to the fair, held every week in Batken. For this reason, about 50-60 Kyrgyz cars gathered in this post in a matter of minutes. Gathered began to express discontent. In addition, the Uzbek citizens living in the villages of Saricanda and Kyzyl-Kyyak of the Sokh District also expressed discontent. Seeing the reaction of people, the Uzbek border guards opened the way. Kyrgyz border guards, in coordination with the leadership of the Batken region, also opened the border post "Kaytmas", which is located on the same site.
“The Uzbek side’s fault lies in non-compliance with the procedures provided for by the intergovernmental agreement on mutual trips of citizens dated July 2, 2000, according to which there is a list of officials entitled to travel freely through the border,” said local expert Sagyn Mamatov. “But perhaps it is connected with the closure by the Kyrgyz side of the Gazprom border post for cars of Uzbekistan.”
All the above events related to border posts show that the border closure is still one of the instruments of pressure on a neighboring country or of response to such pressure. At the same time, such measures noticeably lose their previous effectiveness as a way of putting pressure on a neighboring country for both sides due to the growing awareness of the population of border settlements that they interfere with the normal functioning of both sides.
According to the staff of the Batken branch of the NGO “For International Tolerance”, both sides widely apply toughening of the border regime for various reasons. Perhaps in the near future, the motives of the Uzbek side for the use of such tools may be the decision to tighten control over the export of prohibited goods (cotton, fuel oil, kerosene, gasoline, Uzbek currency). Or, for example, the need to secure the borders in case of national protests in Kyrgyzstan, which may be considered as actions of the For Reforms movement, scheduled for May 27, 2006 in Bishkek. In particular, during the events of April 29, 2006, it was noted that Uzbekistan strengthened control on the border with Kyrgyzstan.
Judging by the fact that the government of Kyrgyzstan approves of retaliation against the tightening of the border regime by the security forces of Uzbekistan, in the future any attempt to tighten the border regime on the Uzbek side will most likely meet an adequate response from the Kyrgyz side. However, if such measures are taken in those days when there is a high turnover and passenger traffic at the border of Batken oblast with Fergana oblast of Uzbekistan (holidays, weekly fairs, cattle markets), then they can provoke violence between local residents and border guards in the region.