U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday criticized as “unacceptable” Uzbekistan’s placing of land mines along parts of its border that have not been delineated.
Mr. Ban is on a quick tour of former Soviet Central Asia, and has urged many of the impoverished region’s authoritarian governments to improve their records on human rights and freedom of speech.
Thousands of land mines placed by the Uzbek government a decade ago along the boundary with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan continue to kill and maim civilians.
“This is a very sad, totally unacceptable situation where so many people have been victimized,” Mr. Ban said. The mines were ostensibly planted to prevent militants from entering from the east. Some estimates place the land mine victim count at over 100.
Mr. Ban expressed concerns earlier about tensions between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan over a proposed hydropower project and the blocking of grain shipments.
The two former Soviet Central Asian nations have been quarrelling over Tajikistan’s plans to build a huge hydroelectric dam that Uzbekistan claims would impede water from reaching its vast irrigated cotton fields.
Mr. Ban urged both countries to refrain from unilateral action until the World Bank completes an assessment of the project.
He also said he was concerned about grain shipments being blocked by Uzbekistan from entering Tajikistan as the spring planting season draws near.
Mr. Ban arrived later in Kazakhstan, where he praised U.S. President Barack Obama’s nuclear posture review.
Mr. Obama is unveiling a new nuclear weapons policy that narrows the circumstances under which the United States would use such weapons while preserving long-standing assurances of nuclear protection for allies
“This is an important initiative to lead by example,” Mr. Ban said.