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Uzbek President Visits Eastern Region Wracked By Ethnic Unrest

The president's office did not say if Shavkat Mirziyoev plans to visit the troubled Sokh exclave while in Ferghana. (file photo)

TASHKENT -- Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev is touring the eastern region of Ferghana days after simmering ethnic unrest boiled over again near the region's Sokh exclave within neighboring Kyrgyzstan.

The Uzbek presidential office said on June 5 that Mirziyoev left Tashkent, the capital, for Ferghana "to get acquainted with the ongoing social and economic reforms and the residents' everyday life."

The office did not say if Mirziyoev plans to visit the troubled Sokh exclave within Kyrgyzstan's southern region of Batken.

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.

On June 1, while getting acquainted with the aftermath of the clashes, Uzbek Prime Minister Abdulla Aripov told Sokh residents that Mirzioyev would visit the Ferghana region as well.

The Sokh district administration said then that 187 local residents were injured in the clashes, 15 of whom had been transferred by helicopter to the Ferghana Regional Central Hospital, while others were being treated in the Sokh District Hospital.

Kyrgyzstan has said 25 of its citizens were injured in the clashes.

Many border areas in Central Asia have been restive 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, one such exclave, is an ethnic Tajik-populated Uzbek territory within Kyrgyzstan's Batken region, where clashes have been common for years.

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