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Central Asia news

An update on delimitation of the borders of Kyrgyzstan

07.12.2007 11:33 msk

Komsomolskaya Pravda

Interview Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan inherited a whole bunch of complicated border problems from the USSR. Each of these problems may foment an actual international conflict. The state borders are the subject of heated debates among Kyrgyz politicians. Here is an interview with a specialist. Salamat Alamanov is chairman of the government commission for border issues with China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan.

Question: - How did it happen that you were given this particular task to sort out?

Salamat Alamanov: - Ex-president Askar Akayev once asked me to chair the government delegation for delimitation of the state border. He probably liked my gradual, step-by-step approach to solution to the problems accumulated in the first years of sovereignty. Problems with all neighbors, it should be mentioned, but first and foremost with China. At first, I did not expect any problems with other post-Soviet countries. After all, we had been in one and the same state for decades - and so on. Life taught me otherwise.

Question: - What kinds of border problems are encountered nowadays?

Salamat Alamanov: - I'd like to mention that we reached an understanding with China much easier than with other neighbors. We have the experience of the Chinese in dealing with state problems and their level of culture to thank for it. Demarcation of the border with China was successfully carried out. (Experience of the Russian diplomats we had worked with proved handy too.)

As for our neighbors in the south, the sisterly republics, we haven't even delimitated the state borders with them. The Kyrgyz-Uzbek border for example is particularly problematic. When we all were living in the USSR, nobody cared much about the administrative border which was set up and shifted if necessary by party functionaries on the spur of the moment. And nobody cared about proper documentation then. Uzbek enclaves were established on the Kyrgyz territory, Kyrgyz and Tajik on the Uzbek. We owe this whole mess to the former leadership.

Moreover, the previous administrative border with Uzbekistan takes a winding route right across cities and villages. It takes diplomacy and tact on our part so as to avoid conflicts and prevent dead-ends. It is not confrontation over some border issue that we are after, it is solution to all existing problems. Whoever it was that said that the matter of the border was actually a matter of peace and war certainly knew what he was talking about. In short, establishment of the state border with Uzbekistan is a slow and backbreaking work.

The Kyrgyz-Kazakh border is the second complicated and problematic.

Question: - You are regularly criticized and condemned, both in your own country and abroad. Criticism or not, you remain the commission chairman...

Salamat Alamanov: - As for criticism at home, I mostly hear it from former deputies of the previous, Akayev's parliament. Beknazarov and his followers in the opposition blame me for the absence of the border with Uzbekistan. They maintain that it is in my own interests to wish for no progress in the matter and claim that the commission should show more determination in promotion of the interests of the state. I may sound rude but only a dilettante will say it, only someone who has no inkling of how complicated the matter is. Excessive determination will only lead to a border conflict. We are not talking borders of a private land plot, right? We are talking borders of sovereign states. The effort is to a great extent intellectual: we meet, give our arguments, listen to those given by the other, provide documentary evidence whenever possible, and discuss every meter of the border. I'd say that we reach an understanding more often than not.

The problem is, the Uzbeks refer to the documents dated 1924-1927 and we appeal to the ones dated 1955. Even that is not all. When the delegations decide to visit the site, they frequently discover that someone's house is located there - or a road... Even the location itself may bear the name different from what it given in the old documents.

Question: - It is rumored that some sort of commercial settlement of border disputes is frequently used...

Salamat Alamanov: - All difficulties and problems notwithstanding, our relations with the Uzbek colleagues are quite friendly and constructive. We know after all what we are doing and understand the importance of it.

As for this rumored commercialization... I've learned not to pay attention to the innuendo. One of the authors of these canards once told the media that I had received a bribe (three autos) from the Uzbeks in return for my complaisance. Rubbish of course. I even toyed with the idea of slapping him with a lawsuit but eventually decided that he was not worth the trouble. Let them rave.

I may only add that my Uzbek and Tajik colleagues in the commission do not find me exactly easy to deal with. Still, I think they appreciate and value my composure, my calm competence in defense of the interests of my country. There are never any problems at the level of national leaderships. All conflicts are fomented by personal ambitions of petty officials from regional or district administrations. I'm glad that President Kurmanbek Bakiyev is so sympathetic and understanding.

Question: - Is there something you dream of?

Salamat Alamanov: - I dream of completion of the demarcation in the south. Once that is accomplish, I will be able find some less complicated duties to perform. I'm a researcher and teacher, you know, and one of the authors of the unique Kyrgyz Jeri (The Kyrgyz Land), a unique encyclopedia published right on the eve of disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1990.

From our folders: Alamanov was born in the settlement of Temirovka, Issyk-Kul region. He finished the Moscow State University majoring as a hydrologist, and spent several years on the staff of Kyrgyzdortransproekt and Kyrgyzgiprovodkhoz research centers. He taught in the Kyrgyz State University at one point. Alamanov is chief of the Department of Geography of the Institute of Geology of the Kyrgyz Academy of Sciences. Ambassador without function of the Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry, he has been in charge of the department of regional problems of the prime minister's apparatus since 1997. Alamanov is the author of more than 60 works.

Sadyrbek Cherikov, Komsomolskaya Pravda, December 5, 2007. © Translated by Ferghana.Ru