Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 141

Five days after the established deadline, the Tajik government and opposition yesterday were close to completing the first stage in the exchange of prisoners and detainees envisaged by the June 27 agreement. Although the exchange involved 48 individuals on each side, instead of the 50 stipulated in the document, both sides pronounced the technically and politically complex operation a success. The operation used government helicopters and a landing site in the opposition-controlled Karategin valley, where the mutual handover took place.

On July 18, a first group of 275 Tajik refugees returned from Afghanistan to Tajikistan through a Russian-manned border checkpoint, one of the only two crossing points stipulated in the June 27 agreement. The detailed plan envisages repatriating batches of 300 refugees on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays of each week, with the goal of repatriating 20,000 in a first stage before winter sets in. Russian border troops have instructions to fire on groups that attempt to bring arms with them or to cross the border at points other than the two authorized sites. Once inside Tajikistan, the refugees are to be temporarily housed and checked in camps run by Tajik authorities and UN aid workers. (Russian agencies, July 18-20)

Turkmen-Pakistani Rapprochement Advances.