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DES MOINES, Iowa — The Republic of Kosovo took its relationship with the state of Iowa to the next level Friday.

Leaders from Kosovo and Iowa celebrated the opening of a new consulate in downtown Des Moines, Kosovo’s second consulate in the United States.

“We look forward to the exciting opportunities that the future will bring to us. But truly, from the bottom of my heart, the experiences I’ve had with the Kosovar — your young men and women — has been tremendous and has been a great impact on my life. And all of that started with the National Guard, and I’m glad to see it come to fruition today with this consulate,” Sen. Joni Ernst said.

Iowa began its relationship with Kosovo in 2011 when the Iowa National Guard partnered with the Kosovo Security Force. Since then, the Iowa National Guard has been to the eastern European country for a variety of projects.

The Republic of Kosovo said Iowa was the perfect location for a consulate because of that strong partnership and the ease of doing business in the state.

Gov. Terry Branstad said Des Moines is now truly an “international city.”

“We simply are delighted to be here for this very first consulate that any country has had in Iowa, in our capitol city of Des Moines. This is a great city, and it’s gotten a lot of awards and recognitions, but this is the first international consulate that we’ve had here,” Branstad said.

The Consulate of the Republic of Kosovo is located in the Court Avenue Business Suites in the Saddlery Building.