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Talks Stalled On Troubled Uzbek District In Kyrgyzstan

Talks to resolve the tense situation in Uzbekistan’s Sokh district, an exclave inside Kyrgyzstan's Batken Province, have stalled.

Batken governor Jenish Razakov told RFE/RL on January 20 that the negotiations with Uzbek officials on reopening border checkpoints and roads around Sokh had made no progress since January 10.

"We have sent our suggestions to resolve the issue of [blocked] roads [and borders] to the governor of [Uzbekistan's] Sokh district, and we called [Uzbekistan's] Ferghana regional governor's office with a suggestion to talk about the issue of [blocked] roads," Razakov said.

"We made the first step toward them, but we haven't heard any reply yet, no suggestion from their side. I think they would make some movement if they really needed these roads."

About 60,000 residents of Sokh, mainly ethnic Tajiks, have been cut off since clashes on January 5-6 with Kyrgyz border guards.

The violence began when the Kyrgyz authorities attempted to connect electric power lines to a new Kyrgyz border post.

Five Sokh residents were reportedly wounded by Kyrgyz border guards.

At least 30 Kyrgyz citizens were taken hostage and many injured, but all were released the following day.

Last week, Kyrgyz officials began installing barbed-wire fences near the Kyrgyz village of Charbak, where the violence took place.

Batken Province officials told RFE/RL that the barbed-wire fences will be installed at a 10-kilometer segment of the 136 kilometer-long Sokh border.

Almost 40 kilometers of the border around Sokh district remain disputed.

The Sokh incident reignited discussions on border-related issues in Kyrgyz, Tajik, and Uzbek media.

On January 18, Foreign Minister Hamrohon Zarifi of neighboring Tajikistan told journalists that he had officially asked the Russian Foreign Ministry to provide Dushanbe with historic documents related to borders between the former Soviet republics in Central Asia.

Zarifi said the documents were needed to clearly delineate Tajikistan's borders with neighboring Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, in order to prevent problems like those experienced in Sokh.

Meanwhile, Uzbek President Islam Karimov in televised comments on January 19 said that "the roots of many differences between Central Asian nations date back to Soviet times and the neighbors should solve all their problems themselves, without any mediators."

With reporting by RFE/RL's Kyrgyz, Tajik, and Uzbek services
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