Eurasianet reports that the presidents of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have held one-on-one talks for the second time in the space of a week in an apparent effort to soothe a surge in tensions over border issues.

Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov and his Tajik counterpart, Emomali Rahmon, reportedly spoke on September 19 in New York on the sidelines of the ongoing UN General Assembly.

A statement issued by Japarov’s office said the issues of delimitation and demarcation of the Kyrgyz-Tajik border were object of special attention.  Meanwhile, press release from Tajik president’s official website omitted this detail.

This second meeting, following the one Rahmon and Japarov held in Dushanbe on September 14 during a Central Asian presidential consultative meeting.

Whatever goodwill was fostered at that first exchange was quickly undone by remarks made on September 15 by Kyrgyzstan’s chief security officer Kamchybek Tashiyev, who demanded in markedly aggressive terms that Tajikistan relinquish its territorial claims to sections of the contested border. 

Tajikistan’s Foreign Ministry responded to those remarks by summoning the Kyrgyz ambassador in Dushanbe. The ministry did not mention Tashiyev by name in referring to the “statements of a top government official of Kyrgyzstan,” but it was nevertheless clear that they were the trigger for the ambassador being summoned.

“It was stressed that such comments could cause serious damage to any progress in the negotiation process on the delimitation and demarcation of the Tajik-Kyrgyz border,” the ministry said in its statement on September 16.

Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan have not yet resolved the border delineation problem.  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 Fergana Valley, where the borders of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan meet.

The border of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan has been the scene of unrest repeatedly since the collapse of the former Soviet Union.  Border talks between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan began in 2002.  The countries share 972 kilometers of border – of which only 664 kilometers have been properly delineated, leading to tensions for the past 30 years.

To-date, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan have reportedly held more than 170 meetings and negotiations on delimitation and demarcation of the common border.