An official ceremony of opening a bridge connecting Tajikistan’s Ovchi-Qalacha jamoat and Kyrgyzstan’s Internatsional jamoat took place today.  

The bridge called Friendship Bridge has been built at the border crossing point (BCP) Ovchi-Qalacha – Kulundu connecting Tajikistan’s Bobojon-Ghafourov district (Sughd province) and Kyrgyzstan’s Leilek district (Batken region).  

Sughd governor Rajabboy Ahmadzoda and Batken governor Akram Madumarov attended the bridge-opening ceremony.     

The previous bridge was destroyed by a mudslide in October last year.  Construction of a new bridge, 18 meters in length and 8 meters in width, has been co-financed by both sides.

“We called this bridge the Friendship Bridge. We hope that there will be no conflicts anymore and residents of border areas will live peacefully and the bridge will serve to strengthen friendship between them,” Sughd governor Ahmadzoda said.

Residents of both jamoats also spoke at the bridge-opening ceremony.  They, in particular, stated that they are ready to live peacefully and the most recent clash on the border was a provocation.  

Recall, the latest incident on the Tajik-Kyrgyz border occurred on September 16 in an area adjacent to the Tajik settlement of Ovchi-Qalacha, not far from the northern Tajik city of Khujand, and the Kyrgyz village of Maksat.  Troops on both sides exchanged gunfire in a confrontation that left at least four dead and dozens injured.      

The shoot-out broke in evening following a dispute over construction at a non-demarcated section of the border and both sides blamed each other for starting the shooting.  The clash reportedly stopped at 9:30 pm and officials were taking measures to prevent further escalation.

Two-and-a-half hour’s negotiations between Tajik and Kyrgyz delegations on border issues that took place in Ovchi-Qalacha yesterday morning reportedly led to some preliminary breakthroughs.  The Kyrgyz side pledged to pull down a lookout tower built in a location near where fighting occurred and the Tajik side said it will not build a lookout tower near the same spot.  Both sides reportedly agreed to withdraw military reinforcements from the flashpoint by 6:00 pm of September 18.  

Many border areas in Central Asia have been disputed since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.  The situation is particularly complicated near the numerous exclaves in the Ferghana Valley, where the borders of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan meet.