The United States voiced its concerns over violent border clashes between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan at the meeting earlier this month of the Permanent Council of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE. The Permanent Council is one of the main regular decision-making bodies of the OSCE.
In a statement to the Council, Political Counselor Michael Kelleher said, “the United States is deeply concerned by fatal clashes between border security forces of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan that have occurred over the past two months in the Ferghana Valley, including an exchange of fire in early July between border officials in the vicinity of Vorukh, as well as an incident in late August on the border between Leilek, Kyrgyzstan and Bobojon Gafur, Tajikistan. These clashes follow a similar confrontation in January, also in Vorukh.”
The statement noted that “these clashes are symptomatic of a larger problem in which the borders of these two states in the Ferghana Valley are still not demarcated, and the cross-border communication, management, and cooperation between border guards in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan is woefully inadequate. Rather than eyeing each other across disputed territory, the border guards of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan should be cooperating to limit the flow of illicit trade – in drugs, weapons, and humans – that transits the Ferghana Valley, and which undermines our common security throughout the OSCE space.”
“The United States urges the governments of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to work together with the OSCE Office in Tajikistan and the OSCE Center in Bishkek to find ways to apply the OSCE’s considerable body of knowledge and expertise on border management to address this chronic problem. One way forward might be for the two OSCE field missions to host strengthened, meaningful conversations between border officials in the field, not just in the capitals. Another might be to expand the highly successful OSCE Patrolling, Programming, and Leadership project to include Kyrgyzstani border guards alongside their Tajikistani and Afghan peers.”
“There are surely other activities we could take to build confidence and reduce tensions along the borders,” Mr. Kelleher said in conclusion. “Whatever path we take, the OSCE should act quickly to assist Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to resolve the underlying issues fueling these clashes.”