Pakistan has pushed, that terrorism or extremism should not be associated with any religion or any culture or civilization; Asim Iftikhar

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Transcript of the Press Briefing by Spokesperson on Friday,
20 May, 2022

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

Assalam-o-Alaikum, and welcome to our Briefing.

Let me at the outset convey our deepest condolences on the passing away of Sardar Aseff Ahmed Ali. He was a distinguished, learned and outstanding person, who also made his mark as Pakistan’s Foreign Minister. May the departed Soul Rest in Peace in Jannah.

Let me begin with the visit of Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to the United Nations, New York from 17-19 May. This first visit of the Foreign Minister was in the multilateral context, and it shows the importance Pakistan attaches to multilateralism and the United Nations.

There were two key meetings at the UN in which the Foreign Minister participated – the Ministerial Meeting on “Global Food Security Call to Action” (18 May) and the Security Council’s Open Debate on “Maintenance of International Peace and Security – Conflict and Food Security” (19 May).

In the two meetings, the Foreign Minister presented Pakistan’s perspective and policy priorities on food and energy security, water crisis, development challenges, and issues of regional and international peace and security.

In his statement at the Ministerial Meeting, the Foreign Minister lauded the initiative to unite and mobilize the international community to respond to the urgent food security and nutrition challenges being faced by the world, which had been further aggravated by climate change, the pandemic and the recent geo-political developments.

Emphasizing the importance of dialogue and diplomacy to resolve disputes peacefully, the Foreign Minister stressed that the new generation looked up to the world leaders to unite to overcome the challenges, and to the United Nations to deliver the peace it was promised, and the peace it deserved.

At the Security Council, the FM forcefully raised the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, the Indian unilateral and illegal actions since 5 August 2019 and the recent ‘delimitation’ exercise terming them an assault not only on the people of Kashmir but an assault on the United Nations, the Security Council and its resolutions and the 4th Geneva Convention – all while the internationally recognized disputed status of Jammu and Kashmir was being undermined and the Muslim majority of the Kashmiris being turned into minority in their own land. The Foreign Minister urged the Security Council to shoulder its responsibility and resolve the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.

The Foreign Minister noted that Pakistan had seen the cost of war up close. We had also witnessed how after decades of conflict, ultimately dialogue and diplomacy were the path to a conclusion. He appealed to the Council to deploy dialogue and diplomacy in pursuit of peace before and not after the war. He called for breaking the cycle of conflict that would enable the new generation to unlock its true potential.

While in New York, the Foreign Minister had other important engagements on the sidelines, including meetings with the UN Secretary-General and President of the UN General Assembly. These were opportunities to brief them on issues of our interest especially Jammu and Kashmir and Afghanistan.

Also, on the sidelines, the Foreign Minister had bilateral meetings with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, and Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio, covering the entire range of bilateral and other issues with the two countries.

In their bilateral meeting, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken reaffirmed the strong determination of Pakistan and the United States to strengthen their broad-based longstanding bilateral relations. They covered the full spectrum of Pakistan-U.S. relations and discussed global and regional situation.

The two sides expressed satisfaction over the ongoing bilateral engagement in the areas of trade and investment, climate, energy, health and education and underlined the need to further reinforce cooperation through dialogue and decisions at a higher level.

The Foreign Minister also had interactions with:
• Congressman Ami Bera, Chairman of House Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee on Asia, the Pacific, Central Asia and Non-Proliferation,
• Representative Adam Smith, Chairman House Armed Services Committee,
• Senator Lindsey Graham,
• Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Chairperson of the US Congressional Pakistan Caucus

Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Government and people of Pakistan received with a deep sense of sadness and grief the news of the passing away of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari undertook visits to the UAE to offer condolences to the newly elected President of the UAE, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the Al-Nahyan family, the leadership and people of the UAE.
In solidarity with the brotherly people of UAE, the Government of Pakistan announced three-days national mourning from 13-15 May, with the national flag flying at half-mast both in Pakistan and across all our Missions Abroad.
Ladies and Gentlemen,

On 16 May, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and H.E. Mr. Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, held a comprehensive telephonic conversation. The Prime Minister offered his condolences to the Government and people of China and expressed sympathies with the families of victims of the heinous terrorist attack that took place at the Karachi University on 26 April, in which three Chinese scholars lost their lives. The Prime Minister affirmed that Pakistan was committed to providing highest level of safety and security of all Chinese nationals and institutions working on projects in Pakistan.

The two Premiers also discussed bilateral matters of mutual importance. Prime Minister Sharif affirmed his Government’s firm resolve to fast track both the ongoing as well as the new projects under the transformational China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Premier Li assured Prime Minister Sharif of China’s readiness to enhance economic cooperation, expand trade and encourage greater investments from China to Pakistan.

Yesterday, a delegation led by Mr. Cheng Guoping, China’s External Security Commissioner, called on the Prime Minister.

On 12 May 2022, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari held a telephone conversation with OIC Secretary General, H.E. Hissein Brahim Taha, to apprise him of the latest situation in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) in the wake of the report of the so-called “Delimitation Commission”.

Dismissing the report as another outrageous attempt by India at political gerrymandering, the Foreign Minister said that by redrawing electoral boundaries blatantly favoring the Hindu-dominated constituencies, the so-called “Delimitation Commission” has validated the worst fears of the Kashmiri people that the BJP Government in India sought to disempower and disenfranchise them by altering the demographic structure of IIOJK with a view to converting the Muslim majority into a minority.

In this regard, Pakistan appreciates the strong condemnation by the Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC) of OIC on 12th May, and the deep concern raised by the General Secretariat of the OIC on 16th May on the Indian Government’s illegal exercise to redraw and delimit the electoral constituencies in the IIOJK. The General Secretariat and the IPHRC termed it direct contravention and in violation of numerous OIC and UN Security Council Resolutions as well as international human rights and humanitarian laws. Reaffirming the long-standing and principled position of the OIC on the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, they also urged the international community, particularly the UN Security Council to take immediate cognizance of the grave implications of such ‘delimitation’ exercise.

On 12 May, speaking at the 2nd Global COVID-19 Summit, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari underscored that any approach to deal with the pandemic must be grounded firmly in scientific evidence and logic. He emphasized that international cooperation and coordination were of fundamental importance to the success of efforts to tackle the pandemic.

On 14 May, a solemn memorial service was held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to honor the lives and services of the victims of terrorist attack in Karachi University on 26 April. The memorial service was attended by Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Chargé d’Affaires of the People’s Republic of China in Islamabad Ms. Pang Chunxue, senior Chinese officials and Chinese nationals from all walks of life in Pakistan. Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood and officers of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also attended the ceremony.

On 12 May, US Cd’A Angela Aggler paid farewell call on the Foreign Minister. The Foreign Minister appreciated her services to promote Pakistan-US ties and wished her well in future endeavours.

On 13 May, Swiss Ambassador called on the Foreign Minister to congratulate him on assumption of office. The Foreign Minister applauded Ambassador for his efforts to deepen mutually beneficial bilateral relationship.

Minister of State Hina Rabbani Khar received EU Special Envoy for Afghanistan Tomas Niklasson on 13 May. They shared perspectives and concerns on the latest situation in Afghanistan and emphasized importance of international coordination to strengthen stability in Afghanistan.

MOS Khar visited the Embassy of Palestine on 17 May for condolences over killing of Shireen Abu Akleh. She offered profound sympathies to her family, condemned Israeli violence on her funeral and reaffirmed Pakistan’s steadfast support for Palestinian cause.
On 17 May, coinciding with the Vesak, an exhibition of artifacts, replicas, and photographs was organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to showcase Pakistan’s Buddhist cultural heritage and Gandhara civilization. The Ambassadors of countries observing the Vesak participated in the exhibition to celebrate their Buddhist civilizational linkages with Pakistan.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me now turn to the situation in IIOJK.
On 18 May, the Indian Charge d’ Affaires was called to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and handed over a demarche conveying Pakistan’s strong condemnation on the framing of fabricated charges against Hurriyat leader Muhammad Yasin Malik, who is currently imprisoned in the infamous Tihar jail by the Indian authorities.
It is highly reprehensible that Mr. Malik has been convicted yesterday in a manifestly dubious and motivated case dating back to 2017.
Predictably, the one-sided case has not only convicted Mr. Yasin Malik on fictitious charges in defiance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) but also attempted to make conjectural insinuations about Pakistan.
The renewed haste, with which cases against Kashmiri leadership are being pursued, further exposes the nefarious Indian designs to undermine historic and distinct political and cultural identity of IIOJK. The conviction of Mr. Yasin Malik and conjuring up of motivated cases against the Kashmiri leadership is patently the continuation of the malicious Indian campaign to deprive the Kashmiris of their true leadership.
But the draconian strong-arm tactics of the Indian occupation can never dampen the spirit of the indigenous Kashmiri struggle for the right to self-determination.
It is a matter of grave concern that India, as a serial violator of human rights and usurper of fundamental freedoms of the Kashmiris, continues to commit widespread and gross human rights violations in IIOJK with impunity. During the week, three more Kashmiris were martyred during so-called cordon and search operations in IIOJK. Such gruesome acts are well documented by the UN and international human rights organizations. On various occasions, including September 2021, Pakistan has also presented to the UN and the international community evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity being perpetrated by the Indian occupation forces in IIOJK.
We strongly urge the members of the international community to hold India to account for its atrocities in IIOJK, and to play their due role in enabling the Kashmiris to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination as pledged to them under the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.
You would have seen our Press Release regarding visit of Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to China on 21-22 May 2022. This would be Foreign Minister’s first bilateral visit abroad since assuming office last month.
I thank you and am ready to take questions on these or other foreign policy matters.
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Question: Yesterday, Indian Court convicted Hurriyat leader Yasin Malik. There are concerns that he may be subject to ‘judicial murder’ while being in custody. In view of these concerns, what can Pakistan do to avoid such a thing from happening?
Secondly, a conference on climate change was held in France. The conference ignored the concerns of the developing countries particularly countries like Pakistan which are severely affected by climate change. Pakistan is faced with multiple climate change issues. Does Pakistan take up the incidents which are caused by the climate change with the developed countries to seek any compensation or remedial measures as these developed countries are the main contributors to climate change? (Khawja Nayyer Iqbal, Media Today)
Answer: On your second question, we need to understand how the international discourse around climate change is evolving. There are agreements and conventions and within that framework the entire international community is working to tackle the climate change crisis; this includes the developing countries, the developed countries and there is this concept of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’. So, it is in that context that this debate takes place. Yes, it is clear that Pakistan is not a major contributor to climate change, but we are one of the most affected countries. As far as your specific question about holding other countries responsible, in terms of compensation, I think we might be a long way from that, as there would be legal and other questions involved. It’s not a straight forward matter to be described by me from this forum.
Regarding your observation about Mr. Yasin Malik. I think you asked about our position, we have stated our position very clearly and we have been saying this for a long time that this is India’s deliberate policy of depriving the Kashmiri people of their legitimate and true representatives. They have been trying to do this by various means, by illegal actions, extrajudicial killings, detentions and arrests, fake cases and bogus trials under the ambit of black laws and a compromised judicial system, and as you mentioned ‘judicial murder’ but rest assured that we will agitate this matter forcefully at all fora and take all possible actions to prevent this.

Question: There has been a surge in terrorist activities following the termination of peace agreement by TTP. What is the current status of the peace talks with TTP? (Allah Noor, Mashriq TV)
Answer: On this I can state that our resolve to fight terrorism remains unwavering. We shall pursue all avenues for defeating the scourge of terrorism and ensuring the attainment of peace and stability in the region and in our country. We will let you know as and when there is any update.

Question: Are there ongoing talks with the Afghan interim authorities on the installation of border fence, as we had faced some issues in the past? (Muhammad Akram Khan, PBC)
Answer: There is no recent problem we have encountered with regard to the fencing most of which has been completed.

Question: Thanks, so much spokesperson. Two questions. Firstly, in his interview with the CNN, the Foreign Minister has said and I quote, “My mother was assassinated while fighting Islamic extremism and terrorism both in our country and in Afghanistan and around the world.” Pakistan’s stated position has been to not associate terrorism or extremism with any religion. Is this a departure from the stance or policy position that Pakistan has taken?
Secondly, yesterday we saw a press conference by CTD officials in Karachi, which alleged that the masterminds of the terror attacks in Karachi were trained in Iran and that the head of the banned Sindh Revolutionary Army, the SRA, is currently living in Iran as well. Previously we have seen that the Saudi diplomats’ assassins were also trained in Iran. Commander Kulbhushan Jadhav was also operating out of Iran. Has this matter been taken up with the Iranian side? (Anas Mallick, Capital News)
Answer: On your first observation, Pakistan’s position and our leadership’s position on the matter is quite clear. It is also the internationally recognized position which in fact, Pakistan has pushed, that terrorism or extremism should not be associated with any religion or any culture or civilization. So, I think the Foreign Minister’s remarks should not be interpreted out of context.
Your second question primarily pertains to the Ministry of Interior. We have not received anything directly from CTD but I can say that countering terrorism is a common and shared objective of Pakistan and our neighbors, we have established mechanisms for dialogue and consultations and we will continue to engage with them on this issue.

Question: It seems that with the visit of Foreign Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to the United States, the warm ties between Pakistan and the United States have resumed. In the coming days, Foreign Minister will also visit China. Will there be any change in the Foreign Policy of Pakistan? During the last government’s tenure, Pakistan also wanted to establish good ties with Russia. Will Pakistan continue that Foreign Policy or it will have the usual foreign policy of Pro-West ties while maintaining good relations with China? Nuaman Ishfaq Mughal (Parliament Times)
Answer: Well, I think you need to understand that Pakistan’s foreign policy when it comes to relations with major powers, has always been consistent – we want balanced, objective and broad-based relations based on mutual interest, mutual benefit and mutual respect with all major powers including the US, China, Russia and others. In that context, Pakistan will continue to engage closely with the US, China and others because as I said we want to pursue these relationships in a very objective and balanced manner in keeping with our best national interest.

Question: During the visit of the Foreign Minister to the United States, and especially when Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto and Secretary Blinken had a meeting, they hinted at forging close economic cooperation. So, in what specific areas did our Foreign Minister talk about expanding mutual cooperation?
Secondly, the honorable Foreign Minister also defended last night, the visit of former Prime Minister Imran Khan to Russian Federation. Whether this government is also continuing the same policy regarding Russian aggression against Ukraine? (Shaukat Piracha, AAJ News)
Answer: I think you would have seen the outcome of the bilateral meeting and the remarks to the press before the bilateral meeting of the Foreign Minister with Secretary Blinken. It is clear that there is a mutual desire from both sides to take the relationship forward in the best interest of our two countries, to deepen the engagement and to strengthen the relations in diverse fields. Some of the details have been shared in the press release, but I think what comes out more prominently is enhanced cooperation in trade and investment, climate, energy, health and education and other areas of economic cooperation. Tech sector was particularly mentioned.
Regarding your second observation, I think the Foreign Minister’s response on the visit of the former Prime Minister to Russia was very clear, and as many have noted in a statesman like manner. I don’t think I need to elaborate on that. As for our position, it was in our view principled, objective and nonpartisan, and let me say again that it is in the interest of Pakistan to continue to promote our relations with the major powers in a balanced and objective manner.

Question: Kashmir Premier League was launched last year. For the second edition this year, the President of Kashmir Premier League has invited Virat Kohli to participate as well. Will Virat Kohli be allowed to participate in Kashmir Premier League? If yes, on what grounds? As he politicized cricket in 2019, when he appeared in a stadium wearing Indian Army Uniform? (Saqib Ali, Daily Kashmir Times)
Answer: I have no information about the matter and I cannot comment, particularly on behalf of any Indian authorities who might have to give approval to any such invitation. But what I can say is that Virat Kohli is a famous cricketer, he has a lot of fans in Pakistan so if he could come to play it will be good.

Question: How do you see the recently concluded US visit in its multilateral context and its bilateral connotations? (Zeeshan Bhatti, PTV)
Answer: Well, thank you. As I shared in my opening remarks, although the Foreign Minister accompanied the Prime Minister in earlier visits to Saudi Arabia and UAE, this was his first visit and it was primarily in a multilateral context. He went to the United Nations, New York, where there were two meetings focusing on food security and the linkages to conflict, pandemic and climate change.
The first meeting significantly was on U.S. invitation in which a group of invited countries participated. The discussions involved what actions the international community can take to address the challenge of food security, which is exacerbated over the years by climate change and most recently by the COVID-19 pandemic, and by the geo-political developments. There was an important call to action as well, containing many measures and steps that member states can take individually and collectively.
The second meeting which was the open debate of the Security Council, was more in the Security Council context. It provided an opportunity to Pakistan to share its perspective not only on the food security crisis, but also on the core aspect of the Security Council’s primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. It is in that context that the Foreign Minister’s statement also deliberated on the Security Council’s responsibilities with regard to conflict prevention, with regard to the maintenance of international peace and security, and in that context, he also mentioned some of the long-standing conflicts that needed to be resolved. He naturally spoke about the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, and also about some of the other situations which are on the Council’s agenda.
So I think it provided us a good opportunity to share our perspective from the point of view of working of the Security Council; Pakistan, as you know, has great experience of being on the Council – on seven occasions I would recall.
As I mentioned, there were several meetings on the sidelines as well, including with the UN Secretary General and the President of the General Assembly in which we had wide-ranging discussions. Significant bilateral meetings were also held on the margins, including with the Foreign Ministers of Italy, and Turkey, as well as the bilateral with Secretary Blinken, which I have already mentioned in some detail. So, I think it was very productive being there at the UN, and being able to promote our multilateral and bilateral agendas.

Question: During the visit of the Foreign Minister to the United State was there any discussion on the letter that was written to the former government?
Secondly, will Pakistan raise the issue of conviction of Yasin Malik in the International Court of Justice or in the United Nations? (Shahzad Hassan Mirza, Daily Media)
Answer: Thank you on your first question, the answer is no. On your second question, as I said, we will take all possible steps to address this imminent danger to the life of Mr. Yasin Malik, and shall keep you apprised.

Question: Since the coming in power of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan on 15 August 2021, Pakistan is seen as their advocate. Pakistan raised its voice to avert the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and help Afghan people. Despite repeated efforts by Pakistan and the international community regarding human rights, women rights and specifically girl’s education, the Afghan authorities have not paid any heed to these demands by the international community. Even now as the Foreign Minister is in US there have been talks on this issue. It seems that Afghanistan has neither listened to us nor the world. If you can comment on this. (Aijaz Ahmed, GNN)
Answer: I think we need to understand Afghanistan’s context. Yes, there was a change on ground on 15th August, as you mentioned and while there was a lot of uncertainty, there was hope for stability after all those years of conflict, and there was the imminent humanitarian crisis about which Pakistan took the lead in doing a lot of advocacy in terms of assisting Afghanistan. Also there were some things that emerged in terms of common expectations of the international community, and in fact the Afghan interim authorities also responded positively to those common expectations initially and I am talking about the question of inclusivity, human rights, including women and girls’ rights to education, and the Afghan territory not being allowed to be used for terrorism against other countries. There were clear commitments from the interim Afghan authorities.
With regard to these expectations, particularly on human rights and women and girls’ issues, there are lingering concerns that those expectations have not been met. Pakistan has a shared view with the international community. We think that it is in the best interest of Afghanistan itself to show progress and positive movement on these issues, which will enable the international partners to engage more constructively with Afghanistan. This is important because Afghanistan needs the continuing engagement, assistance and support of the international community.
Similarly, on the terrorism issue, there are continuing concerns. Pakistan itself has been affected by that in recent weeks and we take it very seriously and continue to raise it with the Afghan authorities.

Question: China’s External Security Commissioner, in his visit to Pakistan laid specific emphasis on the security of the Chinese nationals both related to CPEC and otherwise. Chinese side has requested for special security arrangements for the Chinese citizens. If you can inform us about this?
Secondly, there was a special security mechanism, specifically for the CPEC related projects but we have seen there were incident of Dassu, Karachi and other incidents. We have seen that there are specific attempts against Pakistan China friendship and CEPEC projects by some of the countries. Is Pakistan thinking of raising these concerns with the international community? (Asghar Ali Mubarak, The Daily Mail International)

Answer: We are taking steps that we need to take internally at the national and provincial levels to continue to enhance the security arrangements for Chinese nationals and companies. There is a clear, continuing and strong commitment from the leadership that the Chinese nationals and companies working in Pakistan, specifically on CPEC projects, and in the context of protection of CPEC itself, is very important and we are taking all necessary steps to provide fool proof security to them. We also remain in touch with our Chinese friends on any possible moves that we may need to take at other fora to advance our shared objectives with regard to countering terrorism and protecting CPEC and related personnel and infrastructure. There is continuing discussion with the Chinese side. One thing is clear – both sides are cognizant of the threats, and ill-designs of some, but we are confident that we will together take steps to effectively deal with the challenge and to take forward the All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership.

Question: There were reports that some of the Chinese companies have stopped their work in Pakistan and have in fact returned to China. How would you comment on this? (Ali Hussain Business Recorder)
Supplementary Question: Is it true that China has closed various institutions in Pakistan and has repatriated the Chinese staff following Karachi terrorist attack? (Zulqernain Haider, ARY News)

Answer: No, I think this perception is not correct. And perhaps some of it is being created because there were news reports about the closure of Confucius Institutes in Pakistan and return of Chinese staff. However, this matter has been adequately clarified by the Chinese Embassy already. I want to add and clarify this matter further that all Confucius Institutes in Pakistan remain operational. Online and physical classes are being held by both Chinese and Pakistani teachers.
Some Chinese teachers have indeed returned to China for their summer vacations. In view of the disruption of normal flight operations between Pakistan and China due to COVID prevention measures in China, the Confucius Institute teachers availed a chartered flight which was bringing Chinese officials to Pakistan. The teachers would return to Pakistan after their vacations in China.
Despite the heinous terrorist attack at the Karachi University on 26 April, Pakistan and China are committed to continue their normal exchanges, including educational and cultural exchanges, and are determined to not allow anyone to disrupt the All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership between the two countries.

Question: You have just mentioned about Afghanistan, that Pakistan has concerns on the use of Afghan soil for terrorism. A three-member delegation from Pakistan is participating at the SCO forum for the regional anti-terrorism meeting which is going on in Delhi. Will this issue of using Afghan soil by some of the regional players and also some of the terror outfits against Pakistan be raised?
Second, during Foreign Minister’s US visit were the two key issues one related to Dr. Aafia Siddiqui and the second related to the Pakistani prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, were raised with the US counterpart? (Faisal Raza Khan, 92 News)

Answer: Thank you. On your first question, I don’t think this was on the agenda of the SCO meeting.
As regards your second question, these are issues that have been under discussion in the past, but I’m not aware whether they were particularly raised during this latest engagement.

Thank you very much.

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