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SIOUX CITY -- The City Council took a step in establishing a sister city relationship with Gjilan, Kosovo, Monday, when it voted as part of its consent agenda to approve a resolution establishing a sister city committee.

Jill Wanderscheid, neighborhood services manager, said Gjilan, Kosovo, reached out to Sioux City through the Iowa Sister States organization and requested a sister city relationship last December. The state of Iowa designated Kosovo as a "sister state" in 2013. That relationship grew out of the State Partnership Program between the Iowa National Guard and the Kosovo Security Force. 

Sioux City already has a sister city relationship with Yamanashi City, Japan, which was formed in 2003 to promote city exchanges, foster mutual respect and appreciate different cultures.

"It's not uncommon," Wanderscheid said of a city having more than one sister city. "Several cities in Iowa have multiple relationships."

Gjilan, located in southeastern Kosovo, has a population of about 90,000 people, the vast majority of whom are Albanian.

During a Siouxland Chamber of Commerce trip to Washington, D.C., in 2016, Wanderscheid said representatives from the 185th Air Refueling Wing and Sioux City met representatives from Kosovo at the Embassy of the Republic of Kosovo. Then, in April, Xhavit Gashi, consul general for Kosovo, visited Western Iowa Tech Community College.

Wanderscheid said Johnston and Fort Dodge both have sister cities in Kosovo. She said the Iowa Sister States organization is trying to forge similar partnerships around the state.

"One of the things they're interested learning more about over here is agriculture and then also education," she said.

Before 1999, Gjilan was an important industrial center in Kosovo. Now, the economy is mainly based on small businesses. Every January, the city hosts Flaka e Janarit, a multidimensional cultural event that honors the nation's martyrs. Thousands of artists and art lovers descend on the city for the three-week festival.

The Gjilan Kosovo Sister City Committee will be composed of seven members. The committee's first assignment is planning a fall visit to Sioux City for the mayor of Gjilan.

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