Despite the ceasefire agreement, Kyrgyzstan reports “intense fighting” with Tajikistan over the disputed border.
Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have traded blame for fighting along their border that has killed at least 24 people, injured dozens and prompted mass evacuations.
Kyrgyzstan’s health ministry said early Saturday that 24 bodies had been transported to hospitals in the Batken region bordering Tajikistan.
An additional 87 people were injured, the ministry said.
Tanks, artillery and rocket launchers joined large-scale fighting on Friday along the border that began earlier this week.
As part of the shelling, Tajik forces attacked the regional capital Batken with rockets.
Kyrgyzstan’s emergency ministry said 136,000 people had been evacuated from the fighting area.
It was not immediately clear what caused the tense border fighting between the two former Soviet Central Asian neighbors.
Attempts to establish a ceasefire failed early on Friday and artillery fire resumed later in the day.
The border guard chiefs of the two countries met around midnight and agreed to form a joint monitoring group to help end hostilities. It was not immediately clear whether the meeting had any effect on the fighting.
In a statement on Friday, the Kyrgyz Border Service said its forces were continuing to repel Tajik attacks.
“The Tajik side continues shelling from the Kyrgyz side and fierce fighting continues in some areas,” the statement said.
A news portal of the Tajikistan government, citing its border guard service, said that Kyrgyz forces were strengthening their positions and opened fire on three border villages.
Central Asian border issues stem largely from Soviet times when Moscow tried to divide the region between groups whose settlements were often located among other ethnicities.
In 2021, a dispute over water rights and installation of surveillance cameras by Tajikistan led to clashes near the border, in which at least 55 people died.
Both countries host Russian military bases. Earlier on Friday, Moscow urged an end to hostilities.
The conflict comes at a time when Russian troops are fighting in Ukraine and a new ceasefire is taking place between the former Soviet states of Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Timur Umarov, a fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said the remote villages at the center of the dispute were not economically important, but that both sides gave it an exaggerated political significance.
Umrov said the two governments were beginning to rely on “populist, nationalist rhetoric” that made an exchange of territory aimed at ending the conflict impossible.
Presidents of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan Sadir Zaparov and Emomali Rahmon met at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Uzbekistan on Friday.
According to a statement on Zaparov’s website, the two leaders discussed the border situation and agreed to work with the relevant authorities to pull back troops and stop fighting.
Kyrgyz media said Japarov returned to Kyrgyzstan from the Uzbek city of Samarkand and immediately assembled the country’s Security Council for a meeting.
Another Central Asia analyst, Alexander Knyazev, said the sides showed no will to resolve the conflict peacefully and mutual territorial claims provoked aggressive stances at all levels.
He said only third-party peacekeepers could prevent further conflicts by establishing a demilitarized zone.