Bishkek: The United Nations and the European Union on Tuesday urged Kyrgyzstan not to allow deadly ethnic unrest to derail a key constitutional referendum and Parliamentary Elections.
The southern part of the impoverished Central Asian nation has been convulsed by days of ethnic rioting targeting minority Uzbeks, which has left the country's second-largest city, Osh, in ruins and sent over 100,000 Uzbeks fleeing toward the border.
Kyrgyzstan's interim government, which took over when former president Kurmanbek Bakiyev was ousted in an April uprising, has been unable to stop the violence and accused Bakiyev's family of instigating it to halt a June 27 referendum on a new Constitution. Uzbeks have mostly backed the interim government, while many Kyrgyz in the south have supported Bakiyev.
The Health Ministry on Tuesday said the death toll from the clashes has reached 171, with nearly 1,800 injured. Observers believe the real figures to be much higher. Many refugees arriving in Uzbekistan had gunshot wounds, officials said.
UN representative Miroslav Jenca said on Tuesday in Bishkek that the June 27 referendum and Parliamentary Elections in October must go ahead despite the ethnic violence.
"The referendum and the elections must be held at the announced times," Jenca said. Germany's Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, Holger Green, said the EU shared that position.
Deadly rampages in the country's south began on Thursday, as mobs of ethnic Kyrgyz torched homes and businesses of ethnic Uzbeks. Many sections of Osh, a city of 250,000, have burned to the ground since then, and the rampages have spread into surrounding towns and regions.
Tens of thousands of Uzbeks have been allowed entry into Uzbekistan, where they are being put up in makeshift accommodation in 30 different camps near the border. Some camps were centred in the eastern city of Andijan.
Jenca said on Tuesday that Uzbek authorities had counted 100,000 refugees, though it was not clear on which side of the border they were.
Jallahitdin Jalilatdinov, who heads the Uzbek National Centre in Kyrgyzstan, said on Monday that at least 100,000 Uzbeks were waiting to enter Uzbekistan, while another 80,000 had crossed the border. The Uzbek government said 45,000 had already been registered.
The administration in the southern Kyrgyz city of Jalal-Abad counted 20,000 people amassed at the nearby Uzbek border, and expected "many more than that" in the neighbouring Osh region, spokeswoman Klaya Tapkeyeva. Osh authorities could not immediately be reached for comment.
Water and electricity in Jalal-Abad had been partially restored, and locals were gingerly emerging from their homes to survey the damage, Tapkeyeva said. Interior Ministry troops were patrolling the city, preventing any sort of public gatherings.
Tapkeyeva said she did not consider the town to be safe, and said she feared repeat attacks.
The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, meanwhile, recognised a "fragile stability" in the south, but urged stronger policing to allow for aid to reach the needy.
"It's not easy to deliver the humanitarian aid because of the security situation," OSCE special envoy Janibek Karibjanov said in Bishkek.
First Published: Tuesday, June 15, 2010, 15:54