Kyrgyz Leader Urges Peace After Clashes as Cease-fire With Tajikistan Holds
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BISHKEK, KYRGYZSTAN - Kyrgyzstan's leader called on his compatriots Sunday to respect a cease-fire reached with Tajikistan after their worst border clashes left at least 34 Kyrgyz dead and caused tens of thousands to be displaced.
Clashes between communities along the long-contested border are regular occurrences, with border guards often getting involved.
But the violence that erupted Thursday was by far the most serious during the ex-Soviet nations' 30 years of independence and sparked fears of a wider escalation.
Speaking Sunday, Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov called for "a peacekeeping commission composed of elders from both sides" to help keep the calm on the border.
Authorities had refused the demands of thousands of Kyrgyz who rallied in the capital, Bishkek, this week and demanded to be armed and sent to the border "to prevent a full-scale conflict and maintain stability," Japarov said.
As he offered condolences to the victims of the conflict, Japarov said he was especially saddened by the death of "a 12-year-old daughter of our people," the only child know to have died in the conflict.
"I encourage every family to return to their previous places of residence," Japarov said of the tens of thousands displaced during the conflict.
Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan were "eternal neighbors" Japarov said, noting that he had twice held talks with counterpart Emomali Rakhmon in a bid to end the conflict.
No compensation demand from Kyrgyzstan
Tajikistan, a closed authoritarian state, is understood to have also suffered casualties and damages, but has made far fewer statements on the outbreak of violence.
Kyrgyzstan's emergencies ministry said Sunday that two schools and 78 homes were among the buildings that were burned down during the fighting, which continued intermittently Friday and Saturday despite a cease-fire.
But after national security chiefs from the two countries agreed to reinforce the cease-fire Saturday afternoon "no incidents of shooting have been registered," a spokesman for Kyrgyzstan's national security committee told AFP by telephone Sunday.
The two national security chiefs also agreed on a border protocol early Sunday, Kyrgyzstan's main government website reported, offering few details on the agreement.
There was no immediate indication that progress had been made delimiting disputed sections, which account for more than a third of the 971-kilometer (604 mile) border between the countries.
Kyrgyzstan's interior ministry on Sunday also said it had opened criminal cases in connection with the clashes to consider allegations of murder, mass unrest and illegal border crossings.
National security chief Kamchybek Tashiyev said that Kyrgyzstan had no intention of demanding material compensation from Tajikistan for damages inflicted during the conflict, however.
"If some day the Tajik side repents of what has been done and wants to compensate … then we will consider it," Tashiyev said during a meeting with villagers shown on a pro-government television channel.
Nearly 60,000 Kyrgyz citizens were evacuated from their villages during the conflict, according to local authorities and the Red Crescent.
Both Russia, which maintains military bases in the country, and neighboring Uzbekistan said they were prepared to mediate in the conflict.
The clashes followed tensions between Kyrgyz and Tajiks over a key piece of river infrastructure on Wednesday.
Source: Voice of America