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Thousands Attend Reopening Of Major Checkpoint Along Kyrgyz-Uzbek Border

Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan Open Border Crossing, As Relations Thaw
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BISHKEK -- Thousands of local residents have attended the reopening ceremony of a major checkpoint along Kyrgyz-Uzbek border.

Deputy Prime Minister Duishenbek Zilaliev led Kyrgyzstan's official delegation on September 6, while Uzbekistan's delegation was led by the governor of the Andijon region, Shuhratbek Abdurahmanov.

Zilaliev and Abdurakhmanov said in their addresses that the Dostuk (Friendship) checkpoint reopened after a deal was reached between the two countries during Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev's official two-day trip to Kyrgyzstan, which ended earlier on September 6.

"In just several days, people on both sides will be able to cross the border freely," Abdurahmanov said.

Zilaliev said that guards on both sides of the border will abandon the old practice under which people were allowed to cross the border only if they had proof from relatives on the other side of the border about urgent or important events where their presence was needed.

Uzbekistan closed 12 out of 15 border crossings with Kyrgyzstan after deadly ethnic clashes in 2010 between local Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in Kyrgyzstan's Osh and Jalal-Abad regions.

Ties have been improving since Mirziyoev came to power as acting president in September last year following the death of President Islam Karimov, who had ruled Uzbekistan with an iron fist since the Soviet era. He won a five-year presidential term in December.

Mirziyoev's trip was the first official visit of an Uzbek president to Kyrgyzstan since 2000.

During the visit, a bilateral pact on border demarcation was signed.

Mirziyoev has said his government is ready to invest in the construction of a hydropower station in central Kyrgyzstan, a railway between the two countries, and a highway connecting Uzbekistan's east with China via Kyrgyzstan.

Mirziyoev also announced Uzbekistan's plan to build a new school in Kyrgyzstan's southern Osh region with a large Uzbek community.

During Karimov's rule, Uzbekistan was at odds with its neighbors over issues ranging from border disputes and ethnic stand-offs to economic disagreements linked to water distribution and energy transportation across the region.