The Uzbek Justice Ministry has officially registered a local branch of the Washington-based American Councils for International Education (ACIE), the first nongovernmental organization to be accredited in Uzbekistan for more than 10 years.
Uzbek Deputy Justice Minister Akbar Tashkulov presented the certificate of registration of the Uzbek branch of the ACIE to U.S. Ambassador Pamela Spratlen, the news website UzDaily.com reported on August 30.
American Councils implements U.S. educational programs and exchanges across the world.
At a press briefing in Washington, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the move “demonstrates the growing strategic partnership between the United States and Uzbekistan, and the government of Uzbekistan’s commitment to meaningful reform and international engagement.”
Nauert added that it also represents the two countries’ “strengthening of people-to-people ties,” saying American Councils will “open up many opportunities for academic and cultural exchanges between the United States and Uzbekistan.”
The Uzbek ambassador to Washington, Javlon Vakhabov, also hailed the development in a tweet, saying, “The first U.S.-connected NGO ever registered in Uzbekistan since 2006. My congrats.”
Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev has taken steps to implement reforms at home and improve ties with the outside world following more than a quarter-century of iron-fisted rule under his predecessor, Islam Karimov.
Mirziyoev became interim president after Karimov's death was announced in September 2016 and was elected president in a tightly controlled vote in December 2016.
In September 2017, a Human Rights Watch delegation also visited Uzbekistan, seven years after its representatives were banned from working inside the Central Asian country.
In May, an Amnesty International delegation traveled to Uzbekistan in what the London-based human rights watchdog described as the first such visit to the country in 14 years.