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EDITOR IN CHIEF- ABDULLAH BIN SALIM AL SHUEILI

Kyrgyz leader seeks talks with Tajikistan

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UNITED NATIONS: Kyrgyzstan's leader said he is prepared to negotiate as long as it takes with Tajikistan to resolve a deadly border dispute, while also vowing his forces would not cede "a centimetre" of land.


Tajikistan accused Kyrgyzstan on Wednesday of failing to withdraw military hardware from their mutual border after last week's deadly conflict and hiding it instead, a charge Bishkek denies.


At least 100 people died and about 140,000 were evacuated when the two Central Asian nations, both of which are allied with Russia, clashed in a border dispute on September14-16, using tanks, aviation and rocket artillery.


They have since agreed to cease hostilities and pull back troops, but, indicating tensions remain high, Tajikistan's foreign ministry said in a statement on Wednesday Kyrgyzstan was not honouring its part of the deal.


It said it has spotted camouflaged Kyrgyz armed personnel carriers and other military equipment and a group of special forces servicemen near the border, as well as Kyrgyz drones crossing into Tajik territory.


Kyrgyzstan's foreign ministry said the allegations were untrue. Both countries host Russian military bases and are members of a Russia-led security bloc.


Kyrgyzstan President Sadyr Japarov, in an address to the United Nations General Assembly, said some 140,000 Kyrgyz civilians have been evacuated from border settlements and were being provided assistance.


"For the sake of my people, I am ready to spend... as much time as possible to solve this issue once and for all," he said of the tensions which have simmered and occasionally spilled into open conflict.


"Of course, whatever the solution is, it should be mutually beneficial," he said.


Clashes regularly erupt between the two Central Asian neighbours, as around half of their 970-kilometre border is still to be demarcated.


Japarov said there was a "will and readiness on our part" to continue negotiations under any legal format with Tajikistan, adding that he welcomed any mediation efforts by international bodies such as the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. -- AFP


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