Azizbek Toyirov, Tashkent State University of Law

In Central Asia, due to territorial disputes among neighbor republics, friendly relations between the countries have been worsened. This blogpost delves into the progressive steps taken by Uzbekistan, focusing on the pivotal role played by legislative amendments and changes in territorial identity. I argue that these initiatives have not only strengthened the country’s internal cohesion but have also contributed significantly to building a foundation for amicable regional partnerships. In the blog post, I will examine the steps taken to solve the demarcation issue with Kyrgyzstan, which was the most uncertain border issue and dispute.

Uzbekistan is located between the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers and occupies an area of 448.9 thousand square meters. km. The length of the territory of the republic from west to east is 1425 km, from north to south – 930 km.

The territory borders on Kazakhstan in the north and northeast, on Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan on the east and southeast, on Turkmenistan on the west, and on Afghanistan on the south. The total length of the state border is 6221 km. The length of the borders with Afghanistan is 143 km, with Kazakhstan – 2356.31 km, with Kyrgyzstan – 1476.12 km, with Tajikistan – 1283.2 km and with Turkmenistan – 1831.49 km.

Border issues of Uzbekistan with its neighbors

The last two decades have been marked by numerous territorial disputes between Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. The interstate and interethnic conflicts that subsequently arose jeopardized the security and stability the entire region.

Uzbek- Kazak border issue

After decades of uncertainty and contention, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan successfully resolved disputes over their entire border. On December 22, 2022, the heads of the two states Shavkat Mirziyoyev and his Kazakh counterpart Kassym-Jomart Tokayev signed the Border Demarcation Treaty. This happened at the final ceremony of the Uzbek-Kazakh summit in Tashkent.

Uzbek-Tajik border issue

Relations between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan posed a significant challenge in Central Asia, as disagreements persist across various bilateral domains. Despite this, only 93 kilometers of the 1,332-kilometer Uzbek-Tajik border remain unresolved. In 2002, after the signing and ratification of a delimitation agreement by both states’ parliaments, 84% of the border’s total length was delineated. However, efforts to resolve the remaining portion had stalled until recently. On May 30-31, 2017, the intergovernmental commission on border delimitation and demarcation convened in Dushanbe for the first time in five years. Subsequent negotiations occurred during the January 2018 visit of Uzbekistan’s Prime Minister to Tajikistan.

Uzbek – Turkmen border issue

 During the Samarkand meeting of Central Asian foreign ministers on November 10, 2017, a treaty regarding the border junction points among Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan was signed. The document effectively concludes the process of legalizing the borders among these three states.

Uzbek- Afghan border issue.

Since August 2016 to July 2018 Uzbekistan held 63 meetings with government delegations from neighboring countries. With Afghanistan in February 2018 a meeting was held during which issues of strengthening the banks of the border strip along the Amu Darya River were discussed. As a result of the meetings, on 2nd April, 2018, the Treaty between the Republic of Uzbekistan and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan on mutual legal assistance in civil, family and criminal matters was ratified.

Uzbek – Kyrgyz border issue   

Among border issues, Uzbek – Kyrgyz border issue has been most controversial and disputable. The total length of the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border is approximately 1,380 km. The Osh, Jalal-Abad and Batken regions of Kyrgyzstan border on Uzbekistan. There are four Uzbek enclaves within Kyrgyzstan Sokh, Shokhimardon, Jani-Ayil/Jangail and Chon-Kara/Kalacha. In Uzbekistan, in turn, there is a small Kyrgyz enclave of Barak, located just 5 km from the border.

The initial efforts to establish the border between the states commenced in 2000. Each country put forward its interpretation of the state border, utilizing Soviet maps from various production years. If Uzbekistan relyed on documents from 1924–1927, Kyrgyzstan cited maps from the 1950s, generated through the joint Parity Commission’s efforts in 1955. In 2001, both countries endorsed a Kyrgyz-Uzbek memorandum aimed at regulating the legal framework for delimiting the shared state border.

In 2011, talks resumed to delineate the contested border between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. At the delegation level, an accord was achieved concerning 1,058.83 km of the border. From 2012 to 2014, discussions during the negotiations addressed matters related to gas fields and concerns regarding the KempirAbad and Kasansay reservoirs (Orto Tokoy Reservoir). Additionally, there was contemplation on the possibility of reopening roads to the Kyrgyz enclave of Barak and the Uzbek enclave of Shakhimardan, along with considering the reactivation of border checkpoints that had been closed since 2010.

Deterioration of situation after 2016

After the incidents on March 18, 2016, bilateral relations further worsened when Uzbekistan deployed military personnel and equipment to the disputed Chalasart area in Jalal-Abad. A roadblock was established on the Kerben-Ala-Buka highway, restricting the movement of Kyrgyzstan’s citizens. The Kyrgyz side perceived these actions as a severe breach of the border, prompting Kyrgyzstan to insist on the withdrawal of military personnel and equipment from the contested region. Kyrgyzstan also took measures to fortify its borders. The conflict saw resolution through negotiations between the heads of the border departments of the involved parties and an emergency meeting of the CSTO Permanent Council in Moscow.

A new evolution towards the solving demarcation issue: after 2017

Negotiations to address border disputes between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan gained momentum after Sh. Mirziyoyev came to power in Uzbekistan and his state visit to Kyrgyzstan on September 5, 2017. During this visit, the presidents of both countries signed an agreement to delineate 1,170 kilometers of the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border, leaving just over 200 kilometers as contentious. Notable among the disputed areas were strategic locations such as the Kempir-Abad reservoir, the Gavasai region in Jalal-Abad, the Sokh enclave surroundings in Batken, and others. With 85% of the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border now delimited, this agreement marked a significant achievement in resolving border issues, underscoring the strong commitment of both parties to dispute resolution.

In March 2021, President S. Japarov made a state visit to Uzbekistan, where he met with President Sh. Mirziyoyev. An agreement was reached to reconcile remaining border issues. The subsequent round of talks between the government delegations of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan in August 2022, aimed at clarifying the state border and held in the city of Cholpon-Ata, Issyk-Kul region of the Kyrgyz Republic, did not yield conclusive outcomes. This suggests that disagreements over border territories remain a source of tension between the two states and act as a barrier to interregional cooperation in Central Asia. Resolving these issues necessitates a search for compromises, a process that is lengthy and intricate. Achieving a mutually beneficial resolution to border territorial problems will contribute to enhancing security and stability in the region, fostering the political and socio-economic cooperation among the Central Asian states.

On November 30, 2022, President Mirziyoyev signed laws on the ratification of the Treaty between Uzbekistan and the Kyrgyz Republic on certain sections of the State Border and the Agreement on joint management of water resources of the Andijan (Kempir-Abad) reservoir (2022 Treaty). The treaty was later ratified by both countries’ parliaments.

The content of 2022 demarcation treaty

The 2022 Treaty defines the border line with a total length of 302.29 kilometers, including 35 sections of the joint border. Uzbekistan received 4,957 hectares of the territory of the Andijan/Kempir-Abad reservoir and an additional 19.5 hectares for maintenance and protection of the dam. Kyrgyzstan was given 1,019 hectares of pasture land and 12,849 hectares in the Govasai section as compensation for the unbuilt Kempir-Abad canal on the left bank of the Andijan reservoir. At the same time, the Kyrgyz side pledged not to build hydraulic and other structures that would interfere with the natural flow of the Govasai River, and to prevent technical pollution of the water.

An agreement was reached that the issues of joint management of water resources of the Andijan reservoir and the area with the Chashma spring in the Sokh district would be regulated by separate agreement.

The agreement on joint management of water resources of the Andijan (Kempir-Abad) reservoir consists of 11 articles.  The creation of a Joint Commission for the joint management of water resources from the Andijan Reservoir, co-chaired by the Minister of Water Resources from Uzbekistan, and the approval of its activity regulations signify serious progress.

The Uzbek side undertakes to maintain the water level in the reservoir at no higher than 900 meters horizontally, to ensure free access and use of the reservoir water by citizens of Kyrgyzstan (animal watering, irrigation, fishing), and not to install engineering structures around the reservoir. The Kyrgyz side pledged to ensure the establishment of water protection zones and compliance with the water use regime.


The resolution of the border matter with the Kyrgyz Republic carries significant implications for Uzbekistan’s internal legal system and its regional international relations. On a domestic level, establishing a clear and mutually agreed-upon border will enhance internal stability and legal certainty. Resolving border disputes is crucial in delineating jurisdiction, property rights, and resource management, creating a more secure and predictable environment for the country’s citizens. On an international scale, the successful resolution of the border issue is expected to have a positive impact on Uzbekistan’s relationships with neighboring nations and contribute to regional stability.

From another side, I think there are a number of factors which made Uzbekistan in urgency to resolve Uzbek – Kyrgyz border issue. The following factors could be displayed: 

  1. The Kyrgyz-Tajik conflict likely exerted additional pressure on Uzbekistan, prompting a swift resolution of its own border disputes to forestall further destabilization in the region. The escalation between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, triggered by a water dispute along the border, underscored the risk of violence and disorder stemming from unresolved territorial matters. Uzbekistan, committed to upholding stability in Central Asia, may have been spurred to hasten the settlement of its border disputes in response to this proximate conflict.
  2. The development of the Uzbekistan-Kyrgyzstan-China railway offers substantial economic prospects for all involved nations. A secure and well-defined border plays a vital role in ensuring the smooth functioning of such large-scale infrastructure initiatives, enabling seamless trade and transport across borders. Uzbekistan likely acknowledged the strategic value of promptly addressing its border concerns to fully leverage the economic advantages offered by the railway project.

In summary, the urgency displayed by Uzbekistan in resolving its territorial issues with Kyrgyzstan likely stemmed from a combination of historical tensions, regional stability concerns and economic opportunities. While the Kyrgyz-Tajik conflict and the construction of the Uzbekistan-Kyrgyzstan-China railway may have influenced Uzbekistan’s decision-making process, these factors were likely part of a broader context driving the need for a swift resolution.

Cite as: Azizbek Toyirov, “How did Uzbekistan settle its borders with Kyrgyzstan?”, Uzbekistan Law Blog, 31.01.2024.