Mutual Distrust Feeds Tensions on Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan Border

Mutual Distrust Feeds Tensions on Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan Border
Ethnic Uzbeks gather near the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border, southern Kyrgyzstan, June 12, 2010 (AP photo by D. Dalton Bennett).

In late March, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan both deployed military forces to the undemarcated Chalasart area of their border after Kyrgyz authorities refused Uzbek workers access to a water reservoir located in Kyrgyz territory. In an email interview, Józef Lang, research fellow at the Center for Eastern Studies in Warsaw, Poland, discusses Uzbekistan-Kyrgyzstan relations.

WPR: What is the recent trajectory of Uzbekistan-Kyrgyzstan relations, and what are the major drivers of tension?

Józef Lang: Relations between Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan have traditionally been hostile, and the level of distrust between Tashkent and Bishkek remains high despite their common participation in various initiatives and organizations. From Uzbekistan’s perspective, Kyrgyzstan, with its two revolutions and fragile democratic character, is a source of instability. For Kyrgyzstan, its significantly larger, more populous neighbor presents a political challenge, especially in light of Tashkent’s regional ambitions.

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