Kyrgyzstan’s leader said Tuesday he is prepared to negotiate as long as it takes with Tajikistan to resolve a deadly border dispute, while also vowing his forces would not cede “a centimeter” of land.
The worst violence between the two ex-Soviet countries in years erupted last week on their contested border, raising fears of a large-scale conflict. At least 94 people have been killed, according to the two governments.
Kyrgyzstan President Sadyr Japarov, in an address to the United Nations General Assembly, said some 140,000 Kyrgyz civilians have been evacuated from border settlements and were being provided assistance.
“For the sake of my people, I am ready to spend… as much time as possible to solve this issue once and for all,” he said of the tensions which have simmered and occasionally spilled into open conflict.
“Of course, whatever the solution is, it should be mutually beneficial,” he said.
Clashes regularly erupt between the two Central Asian neighbors, as around half of their 970-kilometer (600-mile) border is still to be demarcated.
Japarov said there was a “will and readiness on our part” to continue negotiations under any legal format with Tajikistan, adding that he welcomed any mediation efforts by international bodies such as the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Japarov met on Friday with his Tajik counterpart Emomali Rahmon at a summit in Uzbekistan, where the two ordered their forces to draw down after a tentative ceasefire was reached.
While declaring his openness to further talks, Japarov also directly accused Tajikistan of “unjustified armed aggressions” against Kyrgyzstan and said his country reserves the right “to respond accordingly.”
He also said Kyrgyzstan has “documented evidence” of the “illegal and ill-intentioned actions of the Tajik side.”
Japarov emphasized: “the Kyrgyz side does not claim foreign lands, nor does it intend to give a centimeter of its land to anyone.”
On Sunday Tajikistan said 35 of its citizens had been killed, including 12 who died in a drone strike on a mosque, while Kyrgyzstan said 59 people died in the southern border region of Batken.