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A border conflict resolved – without war

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A war that could have happened, didn't. The presidents of the Republic of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan peacefully signed a compromise border delimitation agreement in September. Instead of suffering from a major conflict, at the expense of thousands of lives, opportunities for economic and social development in Central Asia have been sustained. The United States should take note.

Kazakhstan could prove to be a significant player in the future of American energy policy. Its proven reserves are 15 billion barrels of oil, and Kazakhstan's promising potential reserves may make it one of the top five world producers over the next decade. Also, large contingents of US soldiers are currently based in Uzbekistan, which has served as one of the main staging grounds for US military and humanitarian efforts in Afghanistan. Peace in both countries is imperative for the Caspian energy project and US military aid in Afghanistan to go forward.

Since their independence more than 10 years ago, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan have had disagreements about multiple locations along their 1,391 mile border. The final border agreement signed last month by Presidents Nazarbayev and Karimov achieved serious (although to some, painful) compromise through the mutual transfer of territories and a number of villages that each side considers to be its own. The process continues with both presidents trying to rally support for the peace and prevention of war.

This border compromise illustrates that disagreements over land ownership do not have to erupt into war. Domestic opposition groups in many regions have often used peace agreements as a means to launch their own bid for power by riling constituents and undermining support for the ruling party. And, there are many instances of political leaders using border disputes as a means of saber rattling against their neighbor and increase their own political popularity.


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