News of a possible imminent border deal between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan has arrived from an unexpected quarter.
Speaking during a visit to Tajikistan on January 10, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan said in remarks broadcast on Tajik state television that a frontier demarcation agreement would be signed in March. He offered no specifics.
Intensive discussions on the issue have been taking place between Tajik and Kyrgyz delegations for the last six months.
Fidan was in Tajikistan for a working meeting, during which he met with multiple senior government figures, including President Emomali Rahmon. The minister said he had received confirmation that a deal had been struck from a Tajik official.
He hailed the likelihood as “an important step towards security and stability in the region.”
Ankara is not known to have played any role in mediating tensions between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. It has, however, sought increasingly to position itself as a viable security partner to both nations.
In July 2023, the defense ministers of Tajikistan and Turkey signed an agreement on defense cooperation on the sidelines of a military trade exhibition in Istanbul.
Military ties between Kyrgyzstan and Turkey, both members of the Ankara-dominated Organization of Turkic States, go much deeper. Last January, Turkey’s ambassador in Bishkek, told journalists that more than 1,600 Kyrgyz nationals had to date completed studies in Turkish military academies. In another concrete illustration of this relationship, Kyrgyzstan has acquired an unspecified number of Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 armed drones — one of which is believed to have been deployed to fatal effect during a border skirmish with Tajikistan in September 2022.
The authorities of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have of late been dropping increasingly optimistic notes about their relationship.
Early last month, Kamchybek Tashiyev, the head of Kyrgyzstan’s State Committee for National Security, or GKNB, and his Tajik counterpart, Saimumin Yatimov, met in the Tajik town of Buston for talks that reportedly produced “key decisions” on how to resolve differences over the border.
In remarks to journalists following that exchange, Tashiyev said that the parties were “very close to settling all matters.”
Yatimov offered some more specific details, saying that a breakthrough solution had been agreed on how to manage use of the Vorukh-Khojai A'lo road, which crosses Kyrgyz territory and links the mainland of Tajikistan to the densely populated Tajik enclave of Vorukh. The point where the Kyrgyz and Tajik roads intersect has long served as a flashpoint for confrontations between local residents.
The Kyrgyz-Tajik border extends approximately 980 kilometers. Fraught negotiations on establishing the exact contours of that line have been ongoing since December 2002.
But the outbreak of constructive dialogue in 2023 has come somewhat against the current of recent events.
In both 2021 and 2022, incidents that began as localized skirmishes escalated into outright armed conflicts. Many dozens of people were killed over four days of fighting in September 2022.
In the wake of that last bout of unrest, the armed forces of both countries have with pointed demonstrativeness worked on increasing their military capabilities, prompting concerns that any future combat could prove even more deadly.