OE Watch Commentary: The President of Uzbekistan, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, has made improving relations with neighboring states a priority since taking office in December 2016. The accompanying excerpts from Uzbek and Tajik sources report on the government of Uzbekistan’s recent decision to reopen several checkpoints on the Uzbek-Tajik border after years of remaining closed under former President Islam Karimov. This could be the most significant of Mirziyoyev’s efforts to improve relations in the region, as Uzbekistan’s relationship with Tajikistan under Karimov stood as the worst compared to relationships with other regional governments.
The article from Anhor, a Russian language news website in Uzbekistan, reports on the recent decision and that “a new checkpoint will be set up in the Samarkand Oblast, located in the village of Jartepa, Urgut District.” The article also notes that there were regular disagreements between the Tajik and Uzbek governments on the demarcation of the border, though it does not mention that the two sides stated they would work on resolving undemarcated sections of the border in the near future.
The article from Asia-Plus, a Russian-language news website in Tajikistan, lists all of the border checkpoints that are now open, including the “railway crossing ‘Amuzang,’ connecting the Surkhandarya Oblast of Uzbekistan with the Tajik rail station ‘Khoshadi’ in the Khatlon Oblast.” The article from Avesta, a Russian language news website, also reports on the reopening of the rail line and how “in November 2011 Uzbekistan suspended all rail traffic” and in 2012, the government reportedly “removed some of the rail line.” The suspension of traffic on this rail line stood as one of a number of measures Karimov took against Tajikistan over the years as the relationship between the two sides remained strained, but none of the articles mention the minefields along sections of the Uzbek-Tajik border.
The government of Uzbekistan placed land mines on sections of the Uzbek-Tajik border in the early 2000s in response to incursions carried out by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan in 1999 and 2000. The Uzbek government removed some of the mines in the years since then, but it is unknown what sections of the Uzbek-Tajik border remain mined or how Mirziyoyev might deal with it. In any case, Mirziyoyev’s decision to reopen a number of checkpoints on the Uzbek-Tajik border is significant and it will be worth watching how Uzbek-Tajik relations develop. End OE Watch Commentary (Stein)
…Today (these border checkpoints) began to operate:- “Jartepa,” connecting (Tajik) Penjikent and Uzbek (Samarkand)- “Kushkent” and “Uchturgan,” connecting (Tajik) Ganchi and Zafarabad and (Uzbek) Jizzak- “Khavastabad” and “Bekabad,” connecting the Tajik District of Spitamen with the (Uzbek) Syrdarya and Tashkent Oblasts- “Pap,” connecting the Asht District of the Sughd Oblast with the Namangan Oblast of Uzbekistan- “Ravat,” connecting the city of Kanibadam with the Fergana Oblast- “Gulbahor,” connecting the Shakhritus District, Khatlon Oblast with the Surkhandarya Oblast- The railway crossing “Amuzang,” connecting the Surkhandarya Oblast of Uzbekistan with the Tajik rail station “Khoshadi” in the Khatlon Oblast
…Over the past eight years only two border checkpoints operated between the two countries – Tursunzade-Sariosiyo and Fotekhobod-Oybek. Two other checkpoints closed under the (former) President Islam Karimov resumed operations at the beginning of the year, “Andarkhon-Patar” and “Kushtigermon”…