As strangers approached, a trio of soldiers guarding the dirt track leading to the Kasan-sai reservoir emerged warily from the bushes, rifles at the ready.
The soldiers were Kyrgyz, and less than a minute’s walk beyond them was the entrance to a village of Uzbek citizens living near the reservoir.
The Kyrgyz post, marked by a pyramid made from tree branches and a camouflage-pattern tent by a brook, serves the line of contact for one of the region’s most intractable territorial disputes.
Twice this year, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan have gone toe to toe over who should have ownership over the Kasan-sai reservoir, which is claimed by Uzbekistan despite lying several kilometers inside Kyrgyzstan. The latest confrontation culminated in August with Uzbek police seizing a nearby mountaintop Kyrgyz telecommunications tower and detaining four technicians working there.
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Peter Leonard is EurasiaNet's Central Asia editor.