Gwadar Port Will Play An Important Role In Providing Fast And Easy Access To The Central Asian States: Zahid Hafeez

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Transcript of the Press Briefing by Spokesperson Zahid Hafeez on Thursday, 26 November, 2020.

[This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated]

Assalaam-o-Alaikum and Welcome to Weekly Press Briefing at the Foreign Office,

Let me begin with Prime Minister Imran Khan’s maiden visit to Afghanistan at the invitation of President Ashraf Ghani.

The day long visit was focused on further deepening the fraternal ties between Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Afghan peace process, regional economic development and connectivity.

The Prime Minister had wide-ranging talks with President Ghani to review efforts during the past two years to promote shared objectives of strengthening bilateral relations and achieving lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan.

The Prime Minister reaffirmed Pakistan’s support to a peaceful, stable, united, democratic, sovereign and prosperous Afghanistan.

Reiterating his long-standing view that there was no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan, the Prime Minister called on all sides for taking necessary measures for reduction in violence.

During the visit, the two sides also jointly issued a document titled “Shared Vision between Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and Islamic Republic of Pakistan to Support Peace and Stability in Both Countries and the Wider Region.”

The Shared Vision is aimed at advancing a forward-looking cooperative partnership between the two countries for political, economic and people-to-people exchanges.

Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi led Pakistan’s delegation at the 2020 Afghanistan Conference, co-hosted by Finland, Afghanistan and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) held virtually from Geneva.

Addressing the Conference, the Foreign Minister highlighted Pakistan’s contribution to help Afghanistan attain self-reliance.

He reiterated Pakistan’s full support for Afghanistan’s endeavors for regional connectivity.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) organized a Country Strategy Dialogue (CSD) on Pakistan yesterday.

Prime Minister Imran Khan inaugurated the Dialogue and participated in an interactive session with the President of the World Economic Forum and the Chairpersons and CEOs of leading global corporations and WEF partner companies.

The second Country Strategy Dialogue by World Economic Forum within one year is recognition of Pakistan’s positive economic trajectory.

Pakistan hosted the Inaugural Meeting of SAARC Planning Ministers on the theme of Shaping the SAARC Vision 2030.

The Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives (PD&SI), Mr. Asad Umar chaired the meeting.

The Meeting was preceded by the SAARC Planning Secretaries’ Meeting, which was also hosted by Pakistan to lay the groundwork for the Ministerial Meeting.

The SAARC Planning Ministers and Secretaries meetings were a reaffirmation of Pakistan’s commitment to the SAARC process and its efforts to forge closer cooperation among Member States.

We have noticed some speculative reports regarding the recognition of Israel by Pakistan.

Let me reiterate that there is no change in Pakistan`s principled position on the issue.

The recognition of Israel is not under consideration.

The Prime Minister has made it clear that unless a just settlement of the Palestine issue, satisfactory to the Palestinian people, is found, Pakistan cannot recognize Israel.

For just and lasting peace, it is imperative to have a two-state solution in accordance with the relevant United Nations and OIC resolutions, with the pre-1967 borders, and Al-Quds Al-Sharif as the capital of a viable, independent and contiguous Palestinian State.

Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi is leading Pakistan’s delegation to the 47th Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) being held in Niamey, Niger, on 27-28 November 2020.

During the two-day session, the CFM will discuss a wide range of issues confronting the Muslim world with particular focus on combating Islamophobia and defamation of the religions; Palestine; Jammu &Kashmir dispute and the situation of Muslim communities and minorities in non-OIC states.

During the visit, the Foreign Minister will highlight aggravating human rights and humanitarian situation in IIOJK, rising incidents of Islamophobia and hate speech against Muslims and emphasize the need for unity of the Islamic world to combat the scourge of Islamophobia and promote inter-faith harmony.

On the sidelines, the Foreign Minister will also hold bilateral meetings with his counterparts from various OIC member states.

Coming to the situation in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), the inhuman military siege, communications blockade, media blackout and brutalization of innocent Kashmiris continue for 479 days, since India’s illegal and unilateral actions of 5th August 2019.

In the month of November alone, Indian occupation forces have martyred 14 Kashmiris in staged encounters under the garb of so-called cordon and search operations.

During the last one year, Indian occupation forces have extra-judicially killed more than three hundred innocent Kashmiris, including women and children, in fake encounters in complete violation of the fundamental precepts of international humanitarian law.

Pakistan calls for immediate and transparent judicial inquiry, under international scrutiny, into the extra-judicial killings of innocent Kashmiris.

According to a recent DW report, India shuts down internet more than any other country.

A DW analysis has found that shutdowns are strategically used to clamp down on dissent.

India’s own Supreme Court has ruled that indefinite shutdowns are unconstitutional.

Yet the IIOJK continues to face the longest shutdown in history.

The Foreign Minister has addressed another letter to the President of the United Nations Security Council and the Secretary General, updating them on the grave situation in IIOJK.

The letter by the Foreign Minister is part of Pakistan’s consistent efforts to keep the UN Security Council and the Secretary General informed of the serious situation in IIOJK, and to demand resolution of the Jammu & Kashmir dispute in accordance with the relevant UNSC resolutions and the wishes of the Kashmiri people.

International community including the leading experts and human rights activists continues to raise its voice against genocidal violence and egregious human rights violations in IIOJK.

Dr. Gregory Stanton, the founder-president of ‘Genocide Watch’, has recently stated that “preparation for a genocide is definitely underway in India.”

Explaining the systematic targeting of Muslims, Dr. Stanton has stated that, “the persecution of Muslims in Assam and Kashmir is the stage just before a genocide. The next stage is extermination – that’s what we call a genocide”.

The situation of minorities, particularly the Muslims, in India is indeed a matter of deep concern.

Pakistan strongly condemns the heart-rending incident of a Muslim girl burnt alive in Bihar, India by right-wing Hindus.

The horrific incident underscores the intensifying marginalization of minorities in India, especially Muslims, as a result of the extremist Hindutva ideology of the present RSS inspired Indian Government.

Such episodes reveal the fiction of India being a so-called ‘secular democracy’ when it is in fact a majoritarian state, where minorities feel increasingly threatened.

As you are aware, Pakistan has presented a Dossier, providing irrefutable evidence of India’s state sponsorship of terrorism in Pakistan.

The comprehensive Dossier contains incriminating evidence of India’s active planning, promoting, aiding, abetting, financing, and execution of terrorist activities in Pakistan.

The dossier also presents evidence of India’s training and harboring of Pakistan-centric terrorist entities for perpetuating terrorism and instigating instability in Pakistan.

The document highlights India’s money laundering and terrorist financing aimed at instigating direct and indirect anti-state activities inside Pakistan through sub nationalist entities, including India’s attempts at trying to undermine, delay, and disrupt the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project.

The evidence details how Indian Embassies and Consulates act as epicenters of state sponsored terrorism against Pakistan, including their status as hubs of terrorist training and financing activities.

To expose Indian state sponsorship of terrorism, Pakistan continues to share the incriminating evidence against India with the international community.

In this regard, Pakistan has already shared the Dossier with the five permanent members of the UNSC, EU and the United Nations Secretary General.

Pakistan calls upon the UN counter-terrorism bodies to proceed on the basis of evidence provided by Pakistan and urge India to renounce use of terrorism as an instrument of state policy; dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism it has established to inflict terrorism on Pakistan, and stop the use of other countries’ soil for its terrorist activities directed against Pakistan.

Following the presentation of Dossier by Pakistan, India has stepped up its anti-propaganda Pakistan, using the oft-repeated bogey of ‘cross-border’ terrorism.

As part of its despicable efforts, India has recently attempted to implicate Pakistan in some alleged planned attack in Nagrota in IIOJK.

Pakistan categorically rejects the completely groundless allegations by the Prime Minister of India and the Indian Ministry of External Affairs in this regard.

Pakistan views these entirely baseless and unsubstantiated Indian allegations as part of India’s desperate attempts to divert international attention from its state-terrorism in IIOJK and its state-sponsorship of terrorism against Pakistan.

I would also like to respond to the gratuitous remarks made by the Indian External Affairs Minister on social media yesterday.

Masquerading as a victim of terrorism is part of India’s desperate attempts to malign Pakistan and to divert international attention from its state-terrorism in IIOJK and its state-sponsorship of terrorism against Pakistan.

The Dossier presented by Pakistan, providing irrefutable evidence of India’s state sponsorship of terrorism, has fully exposed the true face of Hindutva fascism.

The Indian side would be well advised to drop its act of victimhood and eschew the use of terrorism as an instrument of state policy.

As a country that has suffered the most as a result of Indian sponsorship of terrorism, Pakistan will continue to expose India’s propaganda.

Let me also share that to divert world attention from its wrong doings at home and abroad, India continues to escalate tensions along the Line of Control.

The unprovoked ceasefire violations by India, targeting innocent civilians are in clear violation of the 2003 Ceasefire Understanding, and are also against all established humanitarian norms and professional military conduct.

This year alone, India has committed more than 2840 ceasefire violations to date, resulting in 27 shahadats and serious injuries to 245 innocent civilians.

Pakistan calls upon India to respect the 2003 Ceasefire Understanding; investigate such incidents of deliberate ceasefire violations and maintain peace along the LoC and the WB.

Pakistan also urges India to allow the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) to play its mandated role as per the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolutions.

I thank you for your attention and I am happy to take questions on these or other foreign policy related developments.

Question: There are reports in some sections of media that Jammu and Kashmir dispute was not included in the agenda of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) Session, being held in Niger. How would you comment on these reports?

Secondly, there are reports that visas of Pakistani citizens residing in the UAE have been suspended due to security concerns. Would you please comment? (Naveed Siddiqui, Dawn)

Supplementary Question: Reportedly, the visas for Pakistanis were suspended because of growing cases of Covid-19. Since diplomacy works on the basis of reciprocity, is Pakistan also planning any reciprocal action in this regard? There are also reports that the Government of UAE has suspended work visas for Pakistani nationals. Would you please confirm?

Secondly, would you please confirm that how many members of royal family of UAE are in Pakistan for houbara bustard hunting? Are we also planning to suspend their visas and sending them back? (Essa Naqvi, Indus News)

Supplementary Question: There are reports that many Pakistani workers are in jails in the UAE following the suspension of visas. Would you please share the number of Pakistanis imprisoned in the different cities of the UAE? (Ali Hussain, Business Recorder)

Supplementary Question: Reportedly, there are many cases of enforced disappearance of Pakistanis in UAE. Any update in this regard? The Government of UAE has suspended visas of twelve countries, including Pakistan due to security reasons. What are your comments in the regard? (Anwar Abbas, Bol News)

Supplementary Question: There is an official document circulating in the media stating that citizens of Pakistan are posing security threat to the UAE. Has the government of Pakistan taken up this issue with the UAE government? If so, what was the response? (Mateen Haider, G News)

Answer: First, I would like to respond to the media reports that Jammu and Kashmir dispute was not included in the agenda of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) Session. These reports are baseless. Such irresponsible speculations are part of false Indian propaganda and disinformation campaign.

Jammu and Kashmir dispute remains a permanent item on the OIC’s agenda. The Organization has been unambiguously pronouncing itself on the issue for decades, through a succession of Summit as well as CFM Resolutions.

In the aftermath of India’s illegal and unilateral actions of 5th August 2019, the OIC has been actively seized of the matter.

In a series of pronouncements, issued from time to time, the OIC Secretary General has called for settlement of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions.

The OIC Contact Group on Jammu and Kashmir has also met thrice during the past 15 months. The Contact Group last met at the level of Foreign Ministers in June this year. The Final Communiqué of that meeting called upon India to rescind its illegal actions and stop egregious human rights violations in the illegally occupied territory.

The CFM Session in Niger that starts tomorrow forms the first such meeting after India’s illegal and unilateral actions of 5th August 2019. It is expected that the Session would reiterate its strong support to the Kashmir Cause. Let me confirm that the Jammu and Kashmir dispute continues to be amongst the longest standing items on the OIC agenda.

Regarding the suspension of visas by the UAE, the developments regarding change in visa policy of the UAE for Pakistani nationals and its purported causes have not been confirmed by the UAE. We are in contact with the UAE authorities in this regard.

We do not agree with the media reports that characterize the attitude of UAE authorities towards Pakistan as “hostile”. Millions of Pakistanis work and reside peacefully in the UAE, with the approval of the UAE authorities. Isolated events should not be used to cast aspersions over the nature of Pakistan’s long standing fraternal ties with the UAE.

As for your question on houbara bustard hunting, I will revert.

Question: The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia issued a new 20 Riyal bank note to commemorate the Kingdom’s presidency of the G-20. The new note showed the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir as an entirely separate state. The Government of India has protested against this move, whereas Pakistan has remained silent. There is an impression that Pakistan could not register its protest due to pressure from the Kingdom or from the Government of China. Does it also indicate a shift in Pakistan position on the Jammu & Kashmir dispute? (Syed Iqbal Mustafa, Jag Beeti, Times Today)

Answer: There is no change in Pakistan’s principled position on Jammu & Kashmir. Our position on Jammu & Kashmir is clear and consistent. The dispute must be resolved in accordance with the UNSC resolutions and as per the wishes of the people of Jammu & Kashmir.

As for your question about Saudi bank note, the depiction was clearly inconsistent with Pakistan’s position, and we have already taken up the matter with Saudi Arabia through diplomatic channels.

Question: There are media reports regarding the purported recognition of Israel by Pakistan. What is an update in this regard? Does Pakistan have other specific reasons not to recognize Israel except the issue of Palestine?

Secondly, the Foreign Office inaugurated new media center two months ago, why are we not using the facility for press briefings? (Zahid Farooq Malik, Daily Metro Watch)

Supplementary Question: There are media reports that some members of Pakistan establishment have held meeting with Israeli officials in Jordan. Could you kindly confirm? (Ali Hussain, Business Recorder)

Supplementary Question: What are the hurdles for Pakistan to recognize Israel? If we recognize Israel, theJammu &Kashmir issue could also be resolved? (Syed Iqbal Mustafa, Jag Beeti, Times Today)

Supplementary Question: Arab countries are recognizing Israel; don’t you think it is in our interest to recognize the state of Israel? (Nouman Ashfaq, Daily Parliament Times)

Supplementary Question: Would you please tell us the vision of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah on the issue of Palestine and Israel? (Anwar Abbas, Bol News)

Answer: Regarding the new Media Center, since this hall is spacious therefore Covid-19 SOPs can be better observed here. Given the large space it’s easy to observe social distancing in this hall. Therefore, we have not moved to the new Media Centre as yet. Once the situation improves, we will use the new Media Centre for our press briefings.

As for the recognition of Israel, let me reiterate that there is no change in Pakistan`s principled position on the issue. The recognition of Israel is not under consideration.

The Prime Minister has made it clear that unless a just settlement of the Palestine issue, satisfactory to the Palestinian people, is found, Pakistan cannot recognize Israel.

For just and lasting peace, it is imperative to have a two-state solution in accordance with the relevant United Nations and OIC resolutions, with the pre-1967 borders, and Al-Quds Al-Sharif as the capital of a viable, independent and contiguous Palestinian State.

Question: Since the new democratic administration would be assuming office soon, what are Pakistan’s expectations from the United States on different foreign policy issues? (Khawaja Nayyer Iqbal, Media Today)

Supplementary Question: The Vice President-elect of the US is an Indian citizen. How do you see policies of new US administration regarding the Jammu and Kashmir dispute? (Syed Iqbal Mustafa, Jag Beeti, Times Today)

Answer: First, let me clarify that the Vice President-elect of the United States is not an Indian but an American.

Pakistan attaches great importance to its partnership with the U.S. that has been a factor for peace and stability in the region. We look forward to working with the new administration to further strengthen our bilateral ties and continue our partnership to achieve peace, stability and prosperity in the region. We would also welcome resumption of structured dialogue with the US.

As for the dispute of Jammu & Kashmir, grave and systematic human rights abuses and violations are being perpetrated by Indian occupation forces against innocent Kashmiris in IIOJK. Pakistan has consistently been highlighting the worsening human rights situation in IIOJK, and the international community has also taken notice of the humanitarian crisis in IIOJK.

India’s international scrutiny and censure continues to grow and its dismal disregard of human dignity, fundamental rights, and freedom is being meticulously documented by human rights and civil society organizations, international media, parliaments and parliamentarians. We expect that the new US administration would also take notice of the ongoing grave humanitarian situation and willful defiance of international law, democratic norms and human rights obligations by India in IIOJK.

Question: There has been a sharp increase in the number of ceasefire violations by India on LOC and WB. Five innocent civilians were martyred in Neelum Valley the other day, whereas casualties were also reported from Khuiratta. Although Pakistan has been responding to these violations very effectively, the casualties have nevertheless piled up. Will Pakistan continue to militarily reciprocate India’s violations, or will Pakistan also take into consideration the safety of its innocent civilians? (Raziq Bhatti, Kashmir Express)

Answer: Pakistan strongly condemns unprovoked ceasefire violations by India which resulted in shahadats and injuries to innocent civilians. This is a sheer violation of the 2003 Ceasefire Understanding, international humanitarian norms and military code of conduct.

Pakistan will always respond befittingly to the unprovoked ceasefire violations by Indian occupation forces. However, safety of civilian population on both sides of the LOC remains a priority for us. Pakistan exercises maximum restraint in order to protect innocent Kashmiri lives. Unlike India, Pakistan always directs its response towards military targets rather than the civilian population.

Question: My question relates to Afghanistan. Pakistan disclosed in its dossier that Afghan soil was being used by India to perpetrate terrorist activities against Pakistan. What has been the response from the Afghan side on this issue? Have Afghan officials responded to Pakistan’s evidence of the Afghan soil being used by Indian agencies? (Saad Umer, Daily Patriot)

Answer: There are existing mechanisms between Pakistan and Afghanistan to discuss all issues. The issue of use of Afghan soil is also taken up through the available mechanisms.

Question: Pakistan reportedly exported 150 Saker and Peregrine falcon to UAE recently. Under what protocols were those rare and protected birds exported to UAE? Also, international movement of these birds is banned under Pakistan’s own wild life regulations. So did Pakistan buy these birds from the black market? (Zain Zaman, AFP)

Answer: I do not have any details in this regard. We will revert to you on this.

Question: There have been news reports that the pace of CPEC projects is slowing down, along with the Chinese investment into these projects. How do you comment on these reports? (Adeel Warraich, Foreign Affairs News Diplomacy)

Answer: Let me be unequivocal here. There is a lot of disinformation, misinformation, and propaganda aimed at CPEC. However facts speak for themselves.

Let me reiterate, as often underscored by our leadership, that CPEC is a transformational project and is positively contributing to Pakistan’s economy, national development, and regional growth.

Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Xi Jinping, in their meetings, reached consensus on further promoting and expanding CPEC as a High-Quality Demonstration Project of BRI.

We are in consultations with China on further expanding CPEC and making it a centerpiece for regional connectivity and prosperity. The 10th JCC on CPEC will be held soon that will give further impetus to the execution and expansion of CPEC projects.

Let me share with you that during COVID-19, both Pakistan and China have made every effort to ensure that CPEC projects are completed on time. We believe that in post-COVID 19 world, CPEC and BRI would become hub for regional growth and trade. We welcome third countries to invest in CPEC’s SEZs.

Question: My first question relates to the first consignment of goods processed at Gwadar Port, which was sent to China a few days ago. Can you kindly let us know when would this port be used for overland goods transportation to Central Asian states?

Secondly, the newly elected Biden administration is known for its strong stance on protection of human rights. Do you think that the human rights violations in IIOJK will get traction with the new administration? (Naveed Akbar, Aaj News)

Answer: We believe that all those countries, international organizations, human rights bodies and other institutions which accord importance to protection of fundamental human rights will certainly be concerned about the grave human rights situation in IIOJK.

The situation in IIOJK is very well documented and available for the global audience to see. I have referred to one example in my opening statement, i.e. Genocide Watch President’s statement about the plight of Muslims in IIOJK and all across India. Every possible tool of oppression is being employed by the Indian forces to violate fundamental human rights of the Kashmiri people. Therefore, we do expect the US Administration to take notice of this grave situation in IIOJK.

Regarding your question about Gwadar Port, Pakistan obviously wishes to optimally utilize this port to open itself up to the immense economic opportunities available in the Central Asian region.

Gwadar Port will indeed play an important role in providing fast and easy access to the Central Asian States.

Question: Recently, Iranian Foreign Minister visited Islamabad, and there are reports which suggest that he sought Pakistan’s strong support in case of an attack against Iran. Reports are suggesting that highly sophisticated weaponry is being transported to UAE in preparation of such an attack. What will be Pakistan’s position in case a US attack supported by Israel is carried out against Iran in the coming days? (Mateen Haider, G News)

Answer: Pakistan believes in the policy of engagement. Our stance on JCPOA was the same, i.e. negotiated settlement of complex issues through diplomatic dialogue is the best way. Pakistan has always played its role for reconciliation in the region. We are again ready to play any role which helps in bringing down the regional tensions.

Question: I have two questions. Regarding presentation of dossier to UN and the P-5 countries, what has been the reaction so far? Also, there are a number of reports published by international Human Rights organizations, the media , think tanks, which implicate India for its actions in IIOJK. Why can’t Pakistan bring a resolution at UNGA on the basis of its evidence and these favorable reports?

Secondly, regarding the recent controversial tweet by Minister for Human Rights Dr. Shireen Mazari which was vehemently refuted by the Spokesperson of French Foreign Ministry, the Minister afterwards stated that she did not apologize for her views rather she only deleted her tweet. Similarly in the case of UAE, there has been the issue of denial of new visas to Pakistanis, but we responded by gifting them falcons. Why do we act submissively at the world stage on issues like these? (Aijaz Ahmed, GNN)

Answer: Regarding your first question, we have shared the dossier with P-5 members, EU and the UN Secretary General. In addition, Pakistan has also launched diplomatic effort to brief non-permanent members of the UNSC, members of the OIC and the international community about the evidence provided in the dossier.

Foreign Secretary has briefed Islamabad based envoys from different countries on this issue. The Dossier provides irrefutable evidence of India’s state sponsorship of terrorism against Pakistan. We will raise this matter at every available forum, including the UN counter-terrorism machinery.

Regarding your second question, Pakistan and France have historic and friendly relations. The two countries have different views on certain issues and ideas. Since the tweet had been deleted, the matter should be put behind us.

Question: Firstly in the context of normalization deals, will the regional security situation proceed for the better?

Secondly, can you kindly update us about any progress in the Nawaz Sharif summon case in which Foreign Office was asked to testify before the Islamabad High Court? (Khwaja Nayyar, Media Today)

Answer: I have already shared Pakistan’s position on recognition of Israel and its impact in unequivocal terms. Recognition of Israel by other countries is obviously a bilateral matter, on which I cannot comment.

Regarding your second question, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs complies with the orders and processes of the Honorable Court. Since the case is sub-judice, I cannot offer any further comments.

Question: Has Pakistan raised the matter of construction of illegal settlements by India in IIOJK with the relevant UN bodies? (Idrees Abbasi, Star Asia News)

Answer: We believe that these settlements are absolutely illegal, as were the unilateral actions of India on 5th August 2019 and the subsequent measures, particularly those aimed at changing the demographic structure of IIOJK. Indian efforts to alter the demography of IIOJK are in clear violation of the relevant UNSC Resolutions and the international law, including the 4th Geneva Convention. We have been consistently raising the issue at every forum including the United Nations. We will continue sensitizing the international community about the illegal and inhuman Indian actions in IIOJK and will keep on calling for a just resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the relevant UNSC Resolutions and wishes of the Kashmiri people.

I thank you very much, and wish the best of health for all of you at this difficult time.

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