|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fourth General Assembly
23rd Meeting (AM)
Reframing Disarmament Debate in First Committee, Strengthening Multilateralism
Advanced Momentum, Led to Approval of 54 Drafts, Chair Says as Session Closes
Chair’s Goal of Attaining Greatest Level of Consensus Materializes, as Members
Override National Interests Towards Goal to Rid World of Mass Destruction Weapons
Strengthening multilateralism and reframing the disarmament debate had advanced the present positive momentum and led to the approval of 54 key texts, more than half by consensus, bolstering treaties on nuclear test bans and arms control and halting the spread of nuclear weapons, the First Committee Chairman José Luis Cancela said today as the Committee wrapped up its sixty-fourth session.
His main goal had materialized: to attain the greatest possible degree of consensus, not as an imposition of the powerful over the weak, but rather as a cornerstone agreement that would allow Committee members to push forward the momentum in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation, and which went beyond national interests, towards a goal of a world free of weapons of mass destruction, Mr. Cancela of Uruguay told the Disarmament and International Security Committee.
Managing to complete its volume of work in four weeks, the Committee had debated a range of disarmament and non-proliferation themes, amid the growing attention to those issues, prompted in part by the parallel United Nations Security Council summit on 24 September and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Article XIV Conference, held from 24 to 25 September. While some in the First Committee’s debate greeted the apparent momentum with cautious optimism, others held that the world was witnessing a “historic movement of the tide in the area of disarmament”. The Committee, for its part, sent 50 resolutions and four decisions to the General Assembly for adoption, 33 by consensus, showing an increase in the number of texts on which no recorded vote was requested.
Among the session’s highlights, the Chairman pointed to progress on the draft on the Test-Ban Treaty, which, for the first time, had garnered the support and co-sponsorship of the five nuclear-weapon States. The Conference on Disarmament, which had reached agreement on a programme of work that would advance negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty, had also found broad support among Committee members. The resolution on an arms trade treaty had been another concrete contribution of the First Committee to disarmament and arms control, and he felt that the Committee had also boosted the momentum for the coming Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) Review Conference in 2010.
Consensus was not always possible. According to a draft resolution approved this morning by a recorded vote of 159 in favour to none against, with 6 abstentions ( France, Israel, Russian Federation, Syria, United Kingdom, United States), the General Assembly would decide to convene a conference of States Parties and Signatories of Treaties that Establish Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones and Mongolia, in New York, on 30 April 2010. (For details of the vote, see Annex II.)
Recognizing the important contribution of those treaties to the achievement of the goal of non-proliferation and disarmament and also recognizing the right of any group of States to conclude regional treaties to ensure the total absence of nuclear weapons in their respective territories, the Assembly would urge regions that have not yet established nuclear-weapon-free zone treaties to accelerate efforts in that direction.
Prior to taking that action, the Committee voted overwhelmingly to defeat an amendment tabled today by Syria, which would have deleted part of the fourth preambular paragraph, whereby the Assembly would urge, particularly the Middle East, the establishment of such zones through agreements among the region’s States. The Committee took that action by a vote of 103 against to 4 in favour ( Algeria, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran, Syria), with 22 abstentions. (See Annex I.)
General statements or draft/amendment introductions were made on Cluster 1, on nuclear weapons, by the representatives of Syria, Egypt, Iran, Chile and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Explanations of vote on Cluster 1 were made by the representatives of Russian Federation, United Kingdom, Syria and Belarus.
Explanations of vote on Cluster 4, on conventional weapons, were made by the representatives of China, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Cuba, Singapore, Trinidad and Tobago, Pakistan, Iran, Norway, Algeria, United Republic of Tanzania, Philippines, Austria and Netherlands.
The representatives of Ethiopia and Germany spoke on procedural matters.
Expressions of thanks were made by the representatives of Indonesia (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Nigeria (on behalf of the African Group), Russian Federation, San Marino, Honduras (on behalf of the Latin America and Caribbean Group) and Sweden (on behalf of the European Union.)
The Committee’s final adjournment was followed by a hearty round of applause.
The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this morning to conclude action on all draft texts submitted under the disarmament and international security agenda items.
Action on Drafts
The Committee turned first to consideration of the draft resolution in its Cluster 4, on conventional weapons, specifically, the draft resolution entitled “Towards an arms trade treaty: establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms (document A/C.1/64/L.38/Rev.1), which it had approved on Friday morning by a recorded vote of 153 in favour to 1 against (Zimbabwe), with 19 abstentions. (For further details of the vote, see Annex IV of Press Release GA/DIS/3402).
This morning, the representative of China said he believed in regulating the arms trade and addressing illicit trade, and an arms trade treaty should recognize the right of States to defend themselves. He supported efforts to be made within the framework of the United Nations, continuing discussion on the basis of consensus on further agreements. At the same time, the discussions should never undermine the status of the Conference on Disarmament. The draft resolution on the arms trade treaty contains some elements that were not compatible with the universality of the treaty, and thus, China had abstained.
The representative of Ethiopia said his delegation would have voted in favour of the draft resolution on the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) (document L.47/Rev.1), follow-up to the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons (document A/C.1/64/L.51), and on the arms trade treaty (document A/C.1/64/L.38/Rev.1).
The representative of Zimbabwe , whose delegation had voted against L.38/Rev.1, explained that it was in favour of an arms trade treaty to prevent the diversion of those weapons to non-State actors, as mentioned in the draft. However, he preferred the open-ended working group on the arms trade treaty to continue its deliberations and to allow the concerns of Member States to be addressed. The rush to see a treaty in 2012 showed that there was not a full commitment to address those concerns. That could lead to a less desirable treaty.
He said that civic and non-governmental organizations had been working to show Zimbabwe as a country of concern. He objected to attempts to give civic organizations a role in that serious defence matter; an arms trade treaty was a matter for Member States only. Such a treaty would be vulnerable to political interests, with political goals targeting Zimbabwe. However, his delegation would remain engaged in that process to seek a consensus in the end.
The representative of Cuba, also commenting on L.38/Rev.1, said that the draft had a number of legal and security implications. In the group of Governmental experts, it was clear from the complexity of the matter and the number of viewpoints that an arms trade treaty would not have easy answers derived from simple formulas. The Cuban delegation lamented that the draft did not reflect all the issues discussed by the Governmental expert group. She did not understand efforts to force and pressure the achievement of consensus on the treaty. The situation favoured the opinions of some, while ignoring the concerns of others. Any treaty must be achieved by consensus, with participation of the major weapons producers. Future review of the topic should be taken within the United Nations framework.
The representative of Singapore supported L.38/Rev.1 as a draft that would bring about a much-needed strong arms trade treaty, which regulated trade in weapons. That was why Singapore had voted in favour of it.
The representative of Trinidad and Tobago had also supported L.38/Rev.1 because the conclusion of a strong, legally binding treaty was long overdue. The Caribbean had witnessed the lethal effects of small arms and light weapons on the social and economic fabric of society. He would continue to work with other Member States in preparatory meetings leading up to the 2012 conference on those and other issues.
The representative of Pakistan said his delegation had abstained from voting on L.38/Rev.1. While consensus was important, the open-ended working group had not reached a consensus. Jumping from such a group to an international conference would not lead naturally to consensus.
The representative of Iran said his delegation was affected by the arms trade, drug trafficking and the operation of terrorist groups from outside the country, and so it supported combating the illicit arms trade. An integrated approach was needed. Skipping from one plan to another or from one step to the next would waste United Nations resources, with no promise of results. Since the scourge of developing countries was small arms and light weapons, the best way to deal with the problem would be to implement the United Nations Programme of Action to combat those weapons. Iran had participated in the working group on an arms trade treaty. However, the new proposal to leap to the next stage, namely a conference, was a hasty move. Also, parts of the draft ignore United Nations Charter principles, such as the right to self-determination. Given those concerns, Iran had abstained from voting on the draft.
Norway’s representative had voted in favour of L.38/Rev.1 due to its support for a strong arms trade treaty that regulated trade and made a real difference on the ground. In addition, such a treaty would recognize humanitarian concerns. He was encouraged by work towards achieving a robust treaty. He encouraged the involvement of civil society and an open and transparent process. Regarding operative paragraph 5 of the draft, which referred to a consensus agreement to achieve a strong treaty, he was concerned that the consensus requirement and use of veto rights would jeopardize the quality of the outcome.
The representative of Algeria had also voted in favour of L.38/Rev.1 because the adoption of such a draft would regulate the arms trade. Converting the working group into a preparatory commission in order to reach a treaty on arms trade would be a positive development, given the widespread support for the process. A strong treaty dealing with the import, export and transfer of those weapons was a principled commitment. There was a need for transparency and inclusiveness, especially towards reaching a consensus in the forthcoming discussions to ensure universality of such a treaty.
Also having voted in favour of L.38/Rev.1, the representative of United Republic of Tanzania expressed the desire to see such a treaty enter force as soon as possible. Small arms caused great misery, and he implored States to work urgently towards an arms trade treaty. Negotiations should occur within the United Nations framework. He urged all weapons-producing States to participate.
The representative of the Philippines, whose delegation had also supportedL.38/Rev.1, had reservations that consensus would be used to the detriment of the achievement of an arms trade treaty. Veto power could also undermine a strong treaty and consensus could become an undemocratic exercise.
The representative of Austria had voted in favour of L.38/Rev.1 on the basis of its support for a legally binding instrument. He was pleased with the broad Committee support. He shared concerns over the consensus issue, and he anticipated cooperating with partners in preparatory meetings and in the conference of 2012.
The representative of the Netherlands had also supported L.38/Rev.1, which was the start of a process leading to an arms trade treaty. He wanted the treaty to meet the highest standards; he did not want the outcome to be determined by the lowest common denominator, but one that represented concerns. He was committed to working with sponsors. Cooperation and participation of civil society was important to conclude a successful and meaningful treaty in 2012.
When the Committee heard general statements on its Cluster 1, on nuclear weapons, ABDULLAH HALLAK ( Syria) said that his country stood for the lofty principles of draft resolution L.46/Rev.1 and that it confirmed the importance of international conventions in the field of nuclear-weapon-free-zones. Syria congratulated the States in areas that had been able to create such zones. His country had launched an initiative on 29 December 2003 in the name of Arab countries to free the Middle East region of weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons. Syria, however, had strong reservations about the addition proposed for preambular paragraph 4 of L.46/Rev.1 because it meant that the region had agreed, according to internationally-accepted guidelines, to freely create such a zone. However, the Middle East was the only region that was an exception to that rule because of Israeli rejection of the creation of a zone there. Also, the reference to the Middle East that had been injected into the draft included reference to rules that were not binding on Israel. Moreover, there were already two draft resolutions on the Middle East that had been adopted annually in the Committee, namely, the resolution on the Creation of a Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone in the Middle East and on the Risk of Proliferation in the Middle East. Injecting the reference to the region in the current draft resolution in an ambiguous format would, therefore, only weaken those two resolutions and hamper the creation of a nuclear-weapon-free-zone in that region.
HOSSAM ALY ( Egypt) said that the importance of the creation of a nuclear-weapon-free-zone in the Middle East had been repeatedly highlighted and supported by the Committee in several drafts. There had also been direct references to the United Nations agreed guidelines for the establishment of such zones in draft resolution L.46/Rev.1. That was in accordance with the first special session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament and the 1999 [Disarmament Commission] guidelines for the creation of nuclear-weapon-free zones. As a sponsor of L.46/Rev.1, Egypt strongly supported the existing preambular paragraph 4 as it stood, as it was in agreed language and in the most appropriate manner. For that reason, Egypt would oppose the amendment proposed by Syria.
SEIFI PARGOU ( Iran) said that his country supported the amendment proposed by Syria.
FRANCISCO DEL CAMPO ( Chile), speaking as coordinator for draft resolution L.46/Rev.1, said that the draft enjoyed the valuable support of many delegations, which placed high value on it. It was an important tool in the prevention of nuclear proliferation and prevention of the possibility of the use of nuclear weapons. It was essential to reinforce international peace and promote a climate of trust, as well as to create a world free of nuclear weapons. The draft was procedural in nature and had the goal of achieving the support necessary for the holding of that conference. The sponsors had endeavoured to accommodate, to the highest degree possible, requests by delegations. They would have preferred that the draft be approved by consensus, but now called on all States that shared the objectives of the draft resolution to vote in its favour and to vote against the proposed amendment. Chile had no problem with the requested amendment, but believed that the balance that had been struck in the text should be maintained.
CHOE IL YONG (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said that his country supported the amendment proposed by Syria.
Action on Texts
The representative of Germany made a procedural statement.
The Committee then took up the draft resolution on the Second Conference of States Parties and Signatories of Treaties that Establish Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones and Mongolia (document A/C.1/64/L.46/Rev.1).
According to the draft, the Assembly, urging regions that have not yet established nuclear-weapon-free zone treaties to accelerate efforts in that direction, particularly in the Middle East, would decide to convene this conference in New York 30 April 2010. The Assembly would also urge the States parties and signatories to nuclear-weapon-free zone treaties to develop activities of cooperation and coordination in order to promote their common objectives in the framework of the conference.
The Committee first voted on the amendment proposed by Syria to the fourth preambular paragraph (document A/C.1/64/L.55).
The fourth preambular paragraph reads, as follows:
“Urging regions that have not yet established nuclear-weapon-free zone treaties to accelerate efforts in this direction, particularly in the Middle East, through agreements freely arrived at among the States of the region concerned, in accordance with the provisions of the Final Document of the First Special Session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament and the principles adopted by the United Nations Disarmament Commission in 1999,”.
The amendment would retain only the following words:
“Urgingregions that have not yet established nuclear-weapon-free zone treaties to accelerate efforts in this direction”.
The amendment to the draft resolution (document A/C.1/64/L.55) was defeated by a vote of 4 in favour ( Algeria, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran, Syria) to 103 against, with 22 abstentions. (For details of the vote, please see Annex I).
The draft resolution as a whole (document A/C.1/64/L.46/Rev.1) was then approved by a vote of 159 in favour to none against, with 6 abstentions (France, Israel, Russian Federation, Syria, United Kingdom, United States) (Annex II).
The representative of the Russian Federation said he had abstained from voting on L.46/Rev.1. His delegation supported the full cooperation between States parties who had signed onto those zones and it recognized Mongolia’s status. However, several sentences in the draft were contentious to his delegation, prompting the abstention.
The representative of the United Kingdom, speaking on behalf of the United Kingdom, United States and France, explained why the group had abstained from voting on L.46/Rev.1. The Security Council had noted its support for convening this conference in resolution 1887 (2009). He was confident that the conference would make a useful contribution to the field of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. The policy of the group towards nuclear-weapon-free zones had been set out in an explanation of vote of on document A/C.1/64/L.31 (nuclear-weapon-free southern hemisphere). In that context, he wanted to clarify that the position on L.46 did not imply endorsement of all the treaties listed in the second preambular paragraph. Nor did the group’s position imply an unqualified endorsement of paragraph 122 of the final document of the fifteenth summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in July 2009.
He thanked the authors and co-sponsors of the resolution for their flexibility in accepting a number of changes to the text, specifically for their clarification that the conference would not represent a new call on United Nations financial resources, and their acknowledgement of some of the conditions necessary for the establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones.
The representative of Syria said that his delegation supported the establishment of those zones. His delegation’s abstention had been due to the addition to preambular paragraph four. He requested that his reservation be duly noted.
The representative of Belarus said he had voted in favour of L.46/Rev.1 because the document was comprehensive and universal in nature. The idea covered all regions of the world, including the Middle East. He supported the convening of the conference, to be held next year in New York. He believed that the elements in question in the draft should have been removed to achieve consensus.
Closing of Session
The Committee then adopted by consensus a programme of work (document A/C.1/64/CRP.3) for next year’s session.
First Committee Chairman, JOSE LUIS CANCELA of Uruguay, then highlighted the results of the sixty-fourth session, including the adoption of a total of 54 draft texts. He said his main goal had been to attain the greatest possible degree of consensus, not as an imposition of the powerful over the weak, but rather as a cornerstone agreement that would allow members of the First Committee to push forward the momentum in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation, and which went beyond national interests, towards a goal of a world free of weapons of mass destruction.
He said that the wishes he had expressed on the first day of work to move towards strengthening multilateralism had materialized, with 50 resolutions and four decisions, 21 of which had been adopted by a vote and 33 by consensus. That showed that the Committee had increased the number of texts adopted by consensus.
There had been progress on some of the resolutions, including on the CTBT, which, for the first time, had the support of the five nuclear weapon States, including as co-sponsors. There should be continued efforts for further consensus on this treaty in future First Committee meetings, he said.
He then turned to the Conference on Disarmament, which had reached agreement on a programme of work that would advance negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty. The resolution adopted last Friday, on an arms trade treaty (L.38/Rev.1), had been another concrete contribution of the First Committee to disarmament and arms control. The work of the Committee also boosted the momentum for the coming Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) Review Conference in 2010.
He thanked the First Committee secretariat for its strong support, as well as that of the Committee Vice-Chairs and Rapporteur, and the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Sergio Duarte.
Expressions of thanks were then made by the representatives of Indonesia (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Nigeria (on behalf of the African Group), Russian Federation, San Marino, Honduras (on behalf of the Latin America and Caribbean Group) and Sweden (on behalf of the European Union).
Vote on Amendment to Second Conference on Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaties
The amendment to the draft resolution on the Second Conference of States Parties and Signatories of Treaties that Establish Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones and Mongolia (document A/C.1/64/L.55) was rejected by a recorded vote of 103 against to 4 in favour, with 22 abstentions, as follows:
Against: Afghanistan, Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia (Federated States of), Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Samoa, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Zambia.
In favour: Algeria, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran, Syria.
Abstain: Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Barbados, Belarus, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Cameroon, Congo, Ethiopia, Guyana, Haiti, Kenya, Kuwait, Lesotho, Liberia, Nepal, Saint Lucia, Serbia, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, United Republic of Tanzania.
Absent: Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Botswana, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, China, Comoros, Cuba, Djibouti, Dominica, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kiribati, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Libya, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nauru, Nicaragua, Oman, Palau, Qatar, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Sudan, Tajikistan, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zimbabwe.
Vote on Second Conference on Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaties
The draft resolution on Second Conference of States Parties and Signatories of Treaties that Establish Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones and Mongolia (document A/C.1/64/L.46/REV.1) was approved by a recorded vote of 159 in favour to none against, with 6 abstentions, as follows:
In favour: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Samoa, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
Abstain: France, Israel, Russian Federation, Syria, United Kingdom, United States.
Absent: Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Dominica, Eritrea, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Federated States of), Namibia, Nauru, Palau, Rwanda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu.
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