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Uzbek President To Visit Eastern Region Following Ethnic Clashes

Uzbek Prime Minister Abdulla Aripov (right) meets with with Kyrgyz Deputy Prime Minister Kubatbek Boronov at a border crossing on June 1.

RAVON, Uzbekistan -- Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev will visit the eastern region of Ferghana following ethnic clashes near the country's Sokh exclave within Kyrgyzstan's Batken region, Prime Minister Abdulla Aripov says.

Aripov made the announcement during a meeting on June 1 with residents of the volatile exclave, which is officially a part of the country's Ferghana region. He said Mirziyoev will visit the region by the end of the week.

Aripov visited the region to discuss the situation with Kyrgyz Deputy Prime Minister Kubatbek Boronov.

Clashes between Kyrgyz villagers and residents of the exclave erupted on May 31 over a dispute about the ownership of a spring located in the area.

Aripov told Sokh residents that Uzbekistan had proposed to open a recreation park around the disputed spring that could be equally used by Kyrgyz and Uzbek citizens.

He also said that Uzbekistan will build new roads that would serve as a corridor connecting the exclave with the Ferghana region's Rishton district.

Aripov also visited a local hospital, where he met with people injured in the clashes.

The Sokh district administration said 187 local residents were injured in the clashes, 15 of whom had been transferred by helicopters to the Ferghana regional hospital, while others are being treated in the local Sokh hospital.

Kyrgyzstan said earlier that 25 Kyrgyz citizens were injured in the clashes.

The Sokh district officials said on June 1 that three houses on the Uzbek side were set on fire during the clashes. Aripov promised to rebuild or repair the damaged houses "as soon as possible."

Mirziyoev and his Kyrgyz counterpart, Sooronbai Jeenbekov, discussed the situation and ways to prevent tensions in the area by phone on June 1, the Uzbek presidential website announced.

Many border areas in Central Asia have not been delimited since the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991.

The situation is particularly complicated near the numerous exclaves in the volatile Ferghana Valley, where the borders of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan meet.

Sokh is an ethnic Tajik-populated Uzbek territory within Kyrgyzstan's Batken region, where clashes have been common for years.

Tensions have been very high in the area close to a Tajik exclave called Vorukh in Kyrgyzstan's Batken region and nearby disputed segments of Kyrgyz-Tajik border in recent weeks as well.