ISFARA, Tajikistan -- Tajik President Emomali Rahmon has assured residents of the country’s volatile Vorukh exclave within Kyrgyzstan that it will not be part of any land swap between the neighboring countries as they seek a solution to halt border disputes that frequently turn violent.
Rahmon’s statement during a trip to meet with residents of the exclave on April 9 comes weeks after a top Kyrgyz official publicly stated that Bishkek is ready to include the exclave in a land exchange.
"There have not been any talks about the possible exchange of Vorukh for another territory in the last 19 years [since the border delimitation negotiations started], and there is no possibility for it. I am making this statement because of various reports have been spread via the media regarding the issue recently. Border demarcation is a long process and there is no place for emotions in the matter," Rahmon said, calling on Vorukh residents to live “peacefully” with those on the other side of the border.
Rahmon added that agreements on almost half of the Tajik-Kyrgyz border issues have been reached during more than 100 rounds of negotiations held between Dushanbe and Bishkek since border delimitation talks started in 2002.
Rahmon also said that Tajikistan had fully finished all work outlined in a joint road map on border delimitation agreed on between the two countries in 2016 and accused Bishkek of failing to stick to the plan for "unknown reasons."
On March 26, the chief of Kyrgyzstan's State Committee for National Security, Kamchybek Tashiev, said that Bishkek is ready to give 12,000 hectares of land from Kyrgyzstan's southern region of Batken to Tajikistan in exchange for the territory of Vorukh.
Tashiev also said that Kyrgyzstan’s long-standing border issues with another neighbor, Uzbekistan, had been "100 percent fully resolved" after talks in Tashkent.
Many border areas in Central Asia's former Soviet republics have been disputed since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
The situation is particularly complicated near the numerous exclaves in the volatile Ferghana Valley, where the borders of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan meet.
Vorukh is one such exclave, where in July 2019 Tajik officials said one Tajik man was killed and seven more wounded after Kyrgyz villagers used hunting guns in clashes that erupted over a move by Tajik residents to install Tajik national flags on the Isfara-Vorukh road near the exclave.
Kyrgyz officials in the Batken region temporarily moved more than 650 residents from the village of Ak-Sai from the area for safety and security reasons in the days following the clashes.
Another volatile exclave, Sokh, which sits inside Kyrgyzstan, is an ethnic Tajik-populated Uzbek territory where shootings have been common for years.
In 2013, border crossings through Sokh were closed for several weeks after Sokh residents clashed with Kyrgyz border guards over the installation of electric power lines to a new Kyrgyz border post.
Five Sokh residents were reportedly wounded by Kyrgyz border guards and at least 30 Kyrgyz citizens were subsequently taken hostage.