What's behind the pullout of the Uzbek forces from Sokh?
So, just a few days after violence in the Uzbekistan exclave of Sokh prompted Uzbekistan to send troops there, the situation is not only calmed down, but Uzbekistan has agreed to remove the heavy weaponry it's maintained in Sokh for ten years. From Ferghana.ru:
Today, Uzbekistan started the withdrawal of armored troop-carriers and infantry combat vehicles from Sokh. Uzbek government promised to withdraw all military weaponry within 24 hours.
Madamin Saidov, the deputy head for internal affairs in the Batken Oblast, informed NTRK journalists that about 42 armored units have reached Chechme frontier post, heading out to Ferghana Oblast of Uzbekistan through the Kadamzhai district of the Batken Oblast.
Kyrgyz sources report that this military equipment was brought to Sokh during "the Batken events" of 1999-2000 when the militants of Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan attempted to penetrate Ferghana valley from Tajikistan, but were stopped by joint forces of Kyrgyz and Uzbek military.
Kyrgyz border service views the withdrawal of Uzbek heavy military equipment as "positive indicator of bilateral relations". However, the political observers believe that the presence of such military arsenal at Sokh was illegal.
As of yesterday, only ten of the armored vehicles remained, the Kyrgyzstan governor of the region told Kyrgyzstan TV.
It seems pretty remarkable that Uzbekistan would decide that this, of all times, was the right time to withdraw all this military equipment. There is clearly more to the story, and we may never know what it is. What did Kyrgyzstan promise in return?
AKIpress (via BBC Monitoring) reports on the entire agreement between Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan (complete list below), but it doesn't illuminate much. Thoughts?
1. To speed up the activities of the joint Uzbek-Kyrgyz intergovernmental commission for delimitation and demarcation of the state border in the shortest period of time in order to prevent conflict situations on the Uzbek-Kyrgyz state border.
2. To take necessary measures to prevent provocative actions and interference of third parties (including local authorities and self-governing bodies, the law-enforcement bodies and so forth) in resolving both issues related to servicemen and border security issues emerging on the Kyrgyz-Uzbek state border.
3. Representatives of border services of the two sides should consider, within two months, an issue of building engineer obstacles [injenernye zagrajdeniya] at certain sections of the Uzbek-Kyrgyz state border, where conflict situations often emerge.
4. To create necessary conditions for safe operation of all facilities belonging both to Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, which are located on the demarcated and not demarcated sections of the state border, including the passing of service staff, vehicles and freights ensuring activity of the facilities.
5. To remove checkpoints of the law-enforcement and of other bodies, except for border and customs control checkpoints, which check people, vehicles and freights upon their arrival (departure) in the territories of the two countries, on the following roads which are located on the demarcated and not demarcated sections of the border in both directions. Vodil-Shohimardon, Vodil-Sox, Kosonsoy-Kosonsoy reservoir, Yangiqorgon-Ungirtepa, Vodil-Toshtepa, Rishton-Sox, Okchi-Chonkara-Sox, Sox-Sharqobod, Sharqobod-Bozadyr-Devayram, Osh-Batken (Ayrybas, Kadamzhay, including Yapagi checkpoint) Barak-Osh, Chorbog-Sogment, Bozadyr-Bozhoy, Bozadyr-Apkan, Bozadyr-Akotok, Bozadyr-Tan, Bozadyr-Say, Kadamzhay-Shohimardon-Dugoba, Kadamzhay-Shohimardon-Kurbankul.
6. With the aim of further developing bilateral relations, an agreement has been reached between border regions to take necessary measures to prevent conflict situations over the use of water and land the demarcated and not demarcated sections of the Kyrgyz-Uzbek state border. At the same time, the regional administrations of the two sides expressed their intentions to conclude a relevant bilateral agreement on use of pastures.
7. The sides agreed that the Uzbek side is ready to withdraw heavy armoured vehicles, which were deployed in the enclave during the Batken events in 1999-2000, from the enclave of Sox to Uzbekistan's territory in the near future. Thus, the Uzbek side confirms its adherence to principles stipulated in an agreement on eternal friendship between our countries, stressing their respect to sovereignty and territorial integrity of Kyrgyzstan.
Joshua Kucera is the Turkey/Caucasus editor at Eurasianet, and author of The Bug Pit.
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