DUSHANBE, Tajikistan (AFP) – Tajikistan and Uzbekistan look set to demine their shared border, Tajikistan’s border service said Tuesday, as the central Asian neighbours look to roll back more than two decades of hostile relations.
A representative of Tajikistan’s border service told AFP Tuesday that a joint commission had been created to “thoroughly study in what sections of the Uzbek-Tajik border there are anti-personnel mines” and to create a schedule for demining.
Uzbekistan first mined its side of the 1,332-kilometre border in 2000 to prevent incursions from Islamist forces held over from the five-year civil war that began in Tajikistan shortly after its independence from the Soviet Union.
But according to the U.N.-backed Tajikistan Mine Action Centre, 374 Tajik citizens, mostly shepherds and other residents of cross-border regions, have been killed by mines since they were laid.
Tajik President Emomali Rahmon hosted Uzbek counterpart Shavkat Mirziyoyev in a March meeting signalling a thaw between the two countries.
In addition to work on demining, the pair agreed to overhaul a shared visa regime in place since 2000 and pledged to cooperate on Tajikistan’s plans to build a giant dam upstream from arid Uzbekistan.
Uzbekistan’s first president, long-reigning Islam Karimov, was famously hostile towards other countries in the region, even threatening war with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan over water disputes in 2012.
Mirziyoyev, who served as Karimov’s prime minister for 13 years before succeeding him after his death in 2016, has made improving relations with neighbours a foreign policy priority.