“Historic” Uzbek-Kyrgyz summit sees breakthroughs on borders, hydropower

“Historic” Uzbek-Kyrgyz summit sees breakthroughs on borders, hydropower
By bne IntelliNews September 6, 2017

Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev and Kyrgyzstan’s Almazbek Atambayev reached an agreement on September 5 on the construction of the long-disputed Kambarata hydropower plant (HPP) on the Naryn River. A separate border demarcation pact signed between the two countries should put an end to disputes over border territories.

Under the late Islam Karimov’s rule in Uzbekistan, the country remained in a state of perpetual conflict with Kyrgyzstan regarding water use in irrigation and power generation, among other issues. Meanwhile, the failure to delineate the border between the two countries has often led to conflicts, including armed clashes.

Karimov’s stance against Kyrgyzstan’s HPP had included warnings that Central Asia would end up at war over hydropower issues. Mirziyoyev is not only putting an end to these tensions, he is also claiming the construction of the Kambarata power plant would benefit Uzbekistan as well.

In particular, the Uzbek side agreed to support the construction of the plant. “We are ready to take the most active part [in the construction], including financial… We need the construction of Kambarata, this power plant is needed [by both countries],” Mirziyoyev said, according to the Kyrgyz president’s press service.

The agreement was reached during Mirziyoyev’s visit to Bishkek on September 5, which Atambayev described as a "historic event for both nations".

"Both the Kyrgyz and Uzbek people have been waiting for this visit for more than 20 years. [The visit] will solve many issues as it opens a new era, a new epoch in the relations between our two nations," Atambayev said.

The two leaders also signed the border demarcation pact, along with eight more agreements on cooperation. 

The mapping out of Uzbekistan's border has proved a longstanding bone of contention between the country and its Central Asian neighbours. Prior to the signing of the pact, 230 km of the 1,400 km-long Uzbek-Kyrgyz border still remained disputed.

Relations between the two Central Asian countries had been tense since 2010, when Uzbek-Kyrgyz ethnic clashes in southern Kyrgyzstan left hundreds dead and thousands displaced. Tensions temporarily intensified in 2016 after a build-up of Uzbek military forces near a disputed segment of the border.

As well as resetting relations with Uzbekistan's neighbours, Mirziyoyev has initiated reforms domestically, with the most significant being the lifting of currency controls which took effect on September 5.