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Kyrgyz-Uzbek border re-opens

26 October 2011

http://centralasiaonline.com of 10/26/2011 - Late October 24, Kyrgyz Border Troops commander Maj. Gen. Zakir Tilenov and Uzbek Border Troops commander Maj. Gen. Ruslan Mirzayev met in Andizhan, Uzbekistan, and agreed to re-open the Dustlik/Dostuk crossing, she said. No other border crossings have been reopened.

Tilenov and Mirzayev discussed the evolving situation on their shared border and the strengthening of border security co-operation.

Dustlik/Dostuk will be open to pedestrians and vehicles from 8am to 6pm. Summertime hours will be 7am to 8pm, according to the Kyrgyz Border Forces.

The re-opening comes 18 months after Uzbekistan closed the border with Kyrgyzstan after the April 2010 overthrow of then-Kyrgyz president Kurmanbek Bakiyev.

Residents of Osh Oblast, Kyrgyzstan, which borders Uzbekistan's Andizhan Oblast, expressed gratitude upon hearing the news.

"It's great that our border guards were able to reach agreement with their colleagues from Uzbekistan," Nodira Samiyeva, 28, an ethnic Uzbek in Osh Oblast whose relatives live in Namagan, Uzbekistan, said. "Now we'll be able to visit our relatives without difficulty. I haven't seen my sister in more than a year, since she married an Uzbek citizen."

Samiyeva said she'd already phoned her sister and she will go to Andizhan soon.

"People have been waiting a long time for the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border to re-open," Svetlana Gafarova, an analyst at the Kyrgyz NGO Southern Vector, told Central Asia Online. "Now trade and economic relations ... can be renewed. The market in Osh city was always cheap when we were receiving Uzbek early-season vegetables, berries, fresh greens and fruit."

Kyrgyz-Uzbek relations are beginning to acquire civilised methods of co-operation, she said.

"The Kyrgyz authorities succeeded in convincing Uzbekistan to open one of the main points on the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border, which shows the two countries' self-interest in constructive facilitation of co-operation," Kyrgyz political scientist Ikbol Mirsaitov told Central Asia Online. "Now it's important to legally open markets, so that people can trade freely, which will prevent smuggling."

The two sides still need to monitor the border closely to prevent crossings by religious extremists or terrorists, Mirsaitov said, saying that is "the most pressing issue at this time for the Central Asian countries."

Uzbeks also found the border re-opening noteworthy.

"It's interesting that the border is opening right before the (October 30 Kyrgyz presidential) election," independent Uzbek political scientist Nizam Khakkamov said. "Recently, Kyrgyz special services in Osh wiped out a terrorist group and used that (event) to say a danger existed. But Uzbekistan opened the border anyway, so the Kyrgyz succeeded in convincing their Uzbek colleagues that (the Kyrgyz) can keep the situation under control."

"We'll be hoping that the remaining border checkpoints will soon re-open," he said.

Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan share 16 other border crossings that remain closed, according to Kyrgyz Border Troops.