DUSHANBE -- Tajik Foreign Minister Sirojiddin Muhriddin has downplayed a police official's statement that prompted protests in neighboring Kyrgyzstan.
On February 12, Abdullo Navjuvonov, the police chief of the northern Sughd region, said in the city of Khujand that Kyrgyzstan's southern Batken region "historically had never been a land of Kyrgyz."
Navjuvonov also said that "the Tajiks' ancestors had brought Kyrgyz to Batken and now their successors are creating problems for us."
Officials in Kyrgyzstan's Batken region called Navjuvonov's statement "provocative" and said that it violated border agreements between the two countries.
The Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry on February 14 summoned Nazirmad Alizoda, Tajikistan's ambassador to Bishkek, demanding an explanation of Navjuvonov's statement.
Muhriddin told reporters in Dushanbe on February 18 that Navjuvonov's statement is his personal point of view and has nothing to do with Dushanbe's official position.
Many border areas in Central Asia have been disputed since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
The situation is particularly complicated in the numerous exclaves in the Ferghana Valley, where the borders of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan meet.
Last month, Kyrgyz officials had to evacuate more than 250 residents from a village in the Batken region after Kyrgyz and Tajik villagers clashed near a disputed segment of the Kyrgyz-Tajik border.
In December, six Kyrgyz nationals and three Tajik nationals were wounded in clashes in the area, while violence in September claimed four lives.