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For the first time since 2001, Boston has a new sister city — Belfast in Northern Ireland.

The mayors of the two cities signed the agreement at a breakfast event sponsored today by the Irish American Partnership, Mayor Martin J. Walsh's office said in a statement. The sister city program is independent of City Hall and relies on volunteers to succeed, according to Walsh's office.

"Together, Boston and Belfast will strive to foster educational exchanges, promote cultural understanding, and stimulate economic development through our new sister city relationship,'' Walsh said in a statement. "It truly speaks to our historic connection, genuine ties, and deeply linked heritage."

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Belfast's Lord Mayor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, in a statement, said the agreement links the Boston, the "Irish-American capital of America'' with his city, which he described as the "fastest growing knowledge economy of Europe, birthplace of the Titantic, home of [television series] 'Game of Thrones,' and a world-leader in peace building.''

The other sister cities and the years they became linked to Boston are: Kyoto, Japan (1959); Strasbourg, France (1960); Barcelona, Spain (1980); Hangzhou, China (1982); Padua, Italy (1983); Melbourne, Australia (1985); Taipei, Taiwan (1996); Sekondi-Takoradi, Ghana (2001).

According to the Walsh administration, the agreement, among other things, commits both cities to identifying ways to "generate new initiatives to further nurture economic, social, cultural, and faith-based relationships.


John R. Ellement can be reached at ellement@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.