|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-seventh General Assembly
15th Meeting (AM)
Complexity of Arms Restraint Considered in First Committee as Delegates
Urge ‘Get Back to Work’ on Binding Treaty to Regulate Trade
Nothing ‘Small’ or ‘Light’ about Conventional Weapons, Says Speaker
Widespread agreement was evident today in the First Committee on the need for arms restraint, but chronic ambivalence in policies aimed at promoting exports and transfers while preventing their diversion to illicit markets and protecting national interests stirred debate on finalization of an arms trade treaty whose text was already on the table.
An arms trade treaty was nearly within the international community’s grasp, said Japan’s representative. During the four-week conference in July, he said, a common understanding about most of the elements of a future treaty had been developed, and work should soon be able to be finalized.
In the meantime, he said, people continued to suffer from the lack of restrictions. Every year, small arms and light weapons claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide, and for that reason, the international community needed to “get back to work” without delay to build a consensus.
There was nothing “small” or “light” about that category of conventional weapons, said the representative from the Dominican Republic, declaring that the term was both “euphemistic” and “deceptive”. So-called “small weapons” included anything from revolvers and automatic pistols to machine guns, grenade launchers, and anti-aircraft and anti-tank rockets. The world community knew less about the conventional weapons in circulation than it did about nuclear missiles.
Mexico’s representative was similarly disturbed by the irresponsible sale of conventional weapons, as well as their illicit trafficking, which, he said, claimed an alarming number of lives worldwide and fed the bloodiest conflicts and aided transnational organized crime.
Access to arms - including civilian possession of arms without adequate controls - had devastating consequences in humanitarian terms, but also economically, politically and socially, he said. The international community had a shared responsibility to address those problems through collective action. He insisted that an arms trade treaty was “urgently needed”.
Countries such as Liberia, which had experienced protracted civil war, knew the degree of suffering that conventional weapons brought to communities through their illicit use, said its representative. Liberia believed that a tighter control regime limiting the use of those weapons to only the legitimate State authority would go a long way to curbing that menace. He urged greater political will and flexibility to reach consensus on the arms trade treaty.
The United States, at the end of the July Conference, had determined that the topic “required additional time”, as it wanted “to get it right”, said its speaker. The country was steadfast in its commitment to a strong arms trade treaty that would respond to the adverse impacts of the illicit international arms trade on global peace and stability. However, an effective treaty would recognize that each nation must tailor and enforce its national export control mechanisms.
He said his country strongly supported the elimination of ageing, surplus, loosely-secured or otherwise at-risk conventional weapons and munitions, as well as explosive remnants of war. Since 1993, it had provided more than $2 billion in aid to more than 90 countries for conventional weapons destruction programmes, and since 2001, it had assisted the destruction of approximately 1.6 million excess or poorly secured weapons and more than 90,000 tons of munitions worldwide. It also had cooperated in destroying nearly 33,000 excess man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS) in 37 countries.
Also speaking to national disarming efforts, Cambodia’s representative said that technical cooperation and assistance to small and developing countries were vital to the implementation of the small arms and light weapons Programme of Action. As for the “serious challenge” of landmines and explosive remnants of war, those impeded Cambodia’s development while its people worked to restore their livelihoods and the economy in the aftermath of decades of conflict.
International cooperation and assistance, especially for developing countries, was necessary in order to free Cambodia and other countries of those “silent killers”, he said. As a State party to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction (Mine-Ban Convention), Cambodia had been at the forefront of the movement, and Cambodian landmine survivors had played a key role in convincing leaders to join the Convention. He then introduced a draft resolution on the Mine-Ban Treaty (document A/C.1/67/L.8).
Speaking at the start of the meeting, the President of the sixty-seventh General Assembly, Vuk Jeremić, said the international community needed to redouble its efforts to make sure that such disarmament and non-proliferation measures as the arms trade treaty and revitalizing the Conference on Disarmament went forward.
He underlined the importance of making further progress in many areas of the First Committee’s work, adding that “when nations feel secure, they are much more likely to unclench their fists”.
Following the President, a panel of experts gave presentations, including the Chief of the Regional Disarmament Branch of the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, the Director of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean, the Director of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific, and the Deputy Director of the Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa.
Also speaking during the thematic debate on conventional weapons were the representatives of Lithuania, Greece, Morocco, Thailand, Serbia, and the Netherlands.
The First Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Monday, 25 October to continue its thematic debate on conventional weapons.
The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this morning to continue its thematic debate on conventional weapons, hearing first statements from a panel of experts.
Statement by General Assembly President
VUK JEREMIĆ, President of the sixty-seventh session of the General Assembly, underlined the importance of making further progress in many areas of the First Committee’s work. He said, “when nations feel secure, they are much more likely to unclench their fists”, and he expressed the need to take collective measures to deal with threats to peace and to remove them. Noting that the disarmament community had had a busy year, he listed a number of developments, including the success of the first Preparatory Committee for the next Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), as well as the Second Review Conference on small arms and light weapons. He welcomed the ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) by Indonesia, Guinea, Ghana and Guatemala, and urged those that had not yet done so to ratify it.
Regretfully, however, there had not been sufficient progress on other issues, he said, citing the outcome of the arms trade treaty conference and the revitalization of the disarmament machinery, particularly the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament. The international community must redouble its efforts to ensure that work went forward. Important talks had taken place in Geneva and he hoped that discussions would help to bring opposing viewpoints closer, as well as contribute to the overall increased functioning of the disarmament machinery. The international community also should find a way to draw on the capabilities of civil society and “think tanks”, as not enough efforts had been made so far to use their knowledge and experience.
In the coming weeks and months, the international community would have to strengthen efforts and offer increased flexibility, he said. Issues that had been on the agenda for some time included nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation; the establishment of common international standards; transparency; and arms limitation agreements. There were some agreements, but implementation had not been speedy. The Assembly President thus called for a heightened priority regarding those matters, leading to sustainable progress. He underlined his commitment to the Committee, stating that he would be there to help in any possible way to promote the resolution of international problems through peaceful means.
THOMAS MARKRAM, Chief of the Regional Disarmament Branch, United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, briefed the Committee on regional disarmament activities over the past year, particularly those of the three Regional Centres. He said that the work undertaken by them had been demand driven and at the request of Member States. All programme activities were funded by extra-budgetary voluntary contributions by donors, for which he expressed appreciation. The Centres were there to serve the Member States of the region, and he encouraged Member States to use them. Those States would find an “open door” and the Office would do its utmost to support national, regional, and subregional efforts to advance disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control.
NICOLAS GERARD, Deputy Director of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa, said the Centres offered expertise to Member States on disarmament; non-proliferation and arms control; confidence-building measures; and the development of practical disarmament measures. In that way, it contributed to the United Nations in the fields of security sector reform; armed violence prevention and reduction; and gender mainstreaming. In Africa, the Centre supported States’ initiatives in the implementation of the United Nations Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, assisted States in the arms trade treaty process and, at the request of the African Union, in the implementation of the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty (Pelindaba Treaty). Recently, it had also completed or assisted with ongoing projects in Benin, Comoros, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mozambique, Nigeria, Republic of Congo and Togo.
MELANIE REGIMBAL, Director of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean, said that since October 2011, the Centre had carried out 86 activities in 24 States, covering the entire gamut of disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control, much of it aimed at small arms and light weapons assistance. Optimizing stockpile management and weapons destruction had been the main area of focus of the Centre’s technical assistance and activities. She also drew attention to the many training projects completed or under way, and noted that nearly 100 stockpile facilities had been either assessed or secured in nine States of the Caribbean and Southern cone region during the reporting period, and 7,000 small arms and nine tons of weapons ammunition had been destroyed throughout the Caribbean and Andean regions.
She said that in order to address the illicit small arms and light weapons trafficking, States needed adequate legal frameworks and the capacity to enforce them. The Centre had launched its specialized training course for judicial officials on combating impunity in small arms-related cases, resulting in the training of 90 officers in three Central America and Andean States. It had also supported 12 States throughout the region in revising and updating their national small arms legislations. It had stimulated dialogue, which had advanced national action plans in a dozen States and the alignment of national priorities with regional security agendas. In collaboration with VERTIC (the Verification Research, Training and Information Centre), it had provided legal assistance to States for the implementation of the Biological Weapons Convention and United Nations Security Council resolution 1540 (2004).
In the year ahead, she added, the Centre would focus on adapting its judicial training course to the Caribbean context and, funding permitting, would bolster its assistance pertaining to weapons of mass destruction matters. Because standardized training of security sector personnel directly contributed to the capacity of States to seize illicit weapons, the Centre had sustained its implementation of its flagship Inter-institutional Training Course on Combating Illicit Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition and Explosives, resulting in the training of 325 officers from 18 States. That brought the total number of trained officials to 3,425, of which 460 were women officers. She touched on other projects, and said that, in the next year, the Centre would spearhead development of a ballistic and evidence management module aimed at enhancing the Inter-institutional training course, as well as subregional efforts on ballistic information sharing. It hoped to secure funding to undertake both border control and maritime security courses, as well as to provide women-only-training.
SHARON RIGGLE, Director of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific, shared accomplishments such as presentations by experts at regional conferences on the Programme of Action and the arms trade treaty, and a peace and education art contest. Regarding that project, she said that post-conflict Nepal had left the young generation with knowledge of conflict. Almost 400 children from the Kathmandu Valley had participated in the project, in which they were asked, “What does peace mean to you, to your school and to your family?” They were asked to write down their answers. The results had been “inspiring”, and she hoped that projects such as that could be carried out in other parts of the region as well.
She said that the Centre had also succeeded in holding workshops on implementing the Programme of Action with Thailand and other Asian countries, and had expanded the inter-institutional training course for law enforcement officials in Asia and the Pacific. The latter would be “a big project” over the coming years. She thanked the General Assembly for its continued support, and said the core funding provided was a springboard for disarmament and non-proliferation activities, and the funds would be used well. Together, the General Assembly and the Centre could partner to make a safer Asia and Pacific region.
WALTER S. REID ( United States) said his country was steadfast in its commitment to achieve a strong arms trade treaty that would respond to the adverse impacts of the illicit international arms trade on global peace and stability. An effective instrument would recognize that each nation must tailor and enforce its national export control mechanisms. The United States had said at the end of the July Conference that the topic required additional time, as it wanted “to get it right”. The country strongly supported convening a short conference in 2013 to continue efforts to negotiate the treaty. It supported the resolution on the treaty, tabled in the First Committee, because it recognized both where the international community was in the process and how it should capitalize on efforts to bring negotiations to a successful conclusion.
He expressed his country’s strong support for eliminating ageing, surplus, loosely-secured or otherwise at-risk conventional weapons and munitions, as well as explosive remnants of war. Since 1993, it had provided more than $2 billion in aid to over 90 countries for conventional weapons destruction programs. Regarding small arms and light weapons, the United States was dedicated to the implementation of the 2001 Programme of Action, as well as to the International Tracing Instrument and the recommendations of the Group of Governmental Experts. The United States welcomed the outcome document of the Action Programme’s Second Review Conference. The Programme provided a variety of assistance to combat the illicit trafficking of conventional weapons and, since 2001, his Government’s State Department had supported the destruction of approximately 1.6 million excess or poorly secured weapons and more than 90,000 tons of munitions worldwide. The United States also supported the inclusion of small arms and light weapons on the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms.
Regarding man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS), the United States had established strict export controls over their transfer, doing so only on a government-to-government basis through the Foreign Military Sales system. It also had cooperated with countries to destroy nearly 33,000 excess MANPADS in 37 countries. Regarding the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, the United States was deeply disappointed by the failure of the Fourth Review to conclude a protocol on cluster munitions. The Defence Department would continue to implement its policy on Cluster Munitions and Unintended Harm to Civilians, which stated that United States military departments and combatant commands would only employ cluster munitions containing sub-munitions, which did not result in more than the 1 per cent unexploded ordnance across the range of intended operational environments. The United States encouraged other countries to take similar steps.
ROBERTO DONDISCH ( Mexico) said that the irresponsible sale of conventional weapons and the illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons continued to claim an alarming number of lives worldwide. They fed the bloodiest conflicts, and contributed to transnational organized crime. Access to arms and civilian possession of arms without adequate control had devastating consequences in humanitarian terms, but also economically, politically and socially. The international community had a shared responsibility to address those problems through collective action. It must keep working to make an arms trade treaty a reality in the near future. Urgently needed, that instrument would establish clear, serious and effective mechanisms to prevent diversion of those weapons to the illicit market, resulting in humanitarian consequences with which the international community was all too familiar.
Much work remained ahead, he said, and pending issues needed to be resolved before a robust treaty could be completed. But, due to the progress achieved in July and the generalized will to complete the process, that goal was within reach. The lives of thousands of people depended on it. Time was pressing, and the need for action was growing.
RAIMONDA MURMOKAITE ( Lithuania), associating with the statement made by the European Union, said that the international community had witnessed an “extremely intensive season” in the area of conventional disarmament. Despite the progress achieved at the arms trade treaty Conference, she was disappointed that no agreement had been reached on the final text. She fully supported the proposal to convene a further conference in March to finalize and adopt the treaty on the basis of the 26 July draft text. Lithuania had co-sponsored the draft resolution on the topic and encouraged others countries to do the same.
She said that the international community could not “stand idle” after the successful outcome document of the Second Review Conference on small arms and light weapons, but instead should look at ways to adapt the Programme to new challenges. In particular, there was a need to explore the gender aspect of armed violence fuelled by illicit trade, as it was crucial to understand the different ways that men, women, boys and girls engaged and were affected by it.
The growing number of ratifications and accessions to the Convention on Cluster Munitions was welcome, but efforts should be undertaken to sustain that momentum in order to universalize that instrument. Regarding the Mine-Ban Convention, each individual relevant State party had the essential responsibility for its implementation, but for most affected countries, assistance was vital.
Confidence- and security-building measures remained important contributions to overall peace and security, and no less at the regional level, she said. It was deeply worrying that the number of Member States that submitted their annual reports to the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms and Report on Military Expenditures had fallen sharply this year. Lithuania had been providing its information regularly and called upon all States to do the same, and to include, on a voluntary basis, information on small arms and light weapons transfers. She highlighted the innovative toolbox that had been developed in the framework of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which could serve as an inspiration for other regional initiatives.
ALEXANDROS ANDREAS YENNIMATAS ( Greece), aligning with the statement by the European Union, discussed the developments and mixed results pertaining to arms control. Greece believed that the chair’s draft arms treaty text, circulated on 26 July, had encapsulated the substance of the negotiations. The international community should spare no effort in finalizing its work. Greece also expressed its disappointment for the failure of the 2011 Review Conference of the Convention on Conventional Weapons to have reached an agreement on a protocol on cluster munitions.
He said his country welcomed discussions held in April pertaining to mines other than anti-personnel mines, at the expert meeting. That endeavour should remain within the framework of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. Greece, additionally, welcomed the progress achieved during the Eleventh Meeting of the States Parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction (Mine-Ban Convention). Greece had completed its obligations regarding mine clearance in accordance with that treaty four years ahead of schedule.
HÉCTOR VIRGILIO ALCÁNTARA MEJÍA ( Dominican Republic) said that the international community knew less about conventional weapons currently in circulation than it did about nuclear missiles. The Dominican Republic had become an active member of a regional programme to promote the marking of firearms in Latin America and the Caribbean, and it was working with vigour to control weapons flows and establish mechanisms to prevent the movement of weapons across borders. However, using border controls to prevent the trafficking of small arms and light weapons should be addressed in a multilateral context as well, in order to strengthen international regimes to bolster customs and border control institutions.
He said his country deplored the inability of Member States to have reached agreement on an arms trade treaty. The lack of common international norms contributed to the displacement of people, crime and terrorism. In the current international context, existing conventions had been unable to be effective in verification and follow-up. Even the terms “small” and “light”, in reference to those weapons, were actually euphemistic and even deceptive. It was almost as if those referring to such weapons that way were “selling a cat and pretending it is a rabbit.” So-called “small weapons” included revolvers and automatic pistols, as well as sharp guns, rifles, and small machine guns. Calling them “light weapons” was, at the very least, shocking. That category included machine guns and portable grenade launchers, as well as anti-air and anti-tank missiles and missile systems. An effective treaty would guarantee more responsible trade of those weapons, and he hoped the conference next March would help to correct the current situation.
BOUCHAIB ELOUMNI ( Morocco) stated his country’s firm support for the Programme of Action, as well as the International Tracing Instrument. The country welcomed the success of the Second Review Conference of the Action Programme, and it also supported the process on developing an arms trade treaty to stop the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons. It had contributed actively to that work at the July Conference and regretted that consensus on the text remained elusive. That was why Morocco supported the proposal to continue negotiations. It also welcomed the contribution of non-governmental organizations to that process and believed that arrangements regarding their participation should be respected.
KARNTIMON RUKSAKIATI (Thailand), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that compared to the efforts made regarding weapons of mass destruction, the international community had paid less attention to regulate the transfer of conventional weapons. Still, the progress made in the past year towards multilateral conventional arms would provide a good basis for future discussions. Welcoming the outcome of the Second Review Conference of the Programme of Action, he added that as an importing country of small arms and light weapons, Thailand urged exporting countries to enhance national mechanisms to implement the Programme of Action.
He said that although it was regrettable that the United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty had ended its four-week negotiation last July without a successful conclusion, Thailand viewed that process as the most significant development in the area of multilateral conventional arms thus far. The international community must build on the momentum achieved in July to continue negotiating for a strong and robust treaty. Thailand also fully supported the international effort to ban inhumane weapons, especially anti-personnel landmines and certain types of cluster munitions. As a State party to the Mine-Ban Convention, his country was fully committed to fulfil its obligations, especially with regard to the clearance effort.
KOSAL SEA ( Cambodia), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that enhanced international cooperation was needed to overcome the menace of the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons. In particular, technical cooperation and assistance to small and developing countries were vital to the implementation of the relevant Programme of Action. Other serious challenges were landmines and explosive remnants of war, which impeded Cambodia’s development as its people worked to restore their livelihoods and the economy in the aftermath of decades of conflict. Again, international cooperation and assistance, especially for developing countries, was necessary in order to free Cambodia and other countries of those “silent killers”. For that reason, Cambodia had signed the Mine-Ban Convention, and welcomed Somalia as the 160th State party.
He said that Cambodia had increased the number of de-mining operators, amplified risk-education efforts for civilians living in mine-affected communities, and increased services for victims. It had also adopted a National Mine Action Strategy and had achieved major progress in clearing landmines nationwide. That could not have happened without the international community’s technical, material and financial support. Further support was required to address the remaining challenges. Cambodia was also working beyond its borders to reduce the global negative impact of mines.
As a State party to the Mine-Ban Convention, Cambodia had been at the forefront of the movement, and Cambodian landmine survivors had played a key role in convincing leaders to join the Convention, he said. To address the threat of mines and explosive remnants of war more rapidly and efficiently, Cambodia was honoured to introduce a traditional draft resolution (document A/C.1/67/L.8) entitled “Implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on Their Destruction”, the purpose of which was to emphasize the universalization of the Convention and strengthen cooperation in its implementation.
MARI AMANO ( Japan) said that an arms trade treaty was nearly within the international community’s grasp. During the four weeks of meetings, a common understanding about most of its elements had evolved, and work should soon be able to be finalized. Meanwhile, however, people continued to suffer due to the absence of commonly agreed international standards for the transfers. For that reason, the international community needed to “get back to work” without delay to build on the progress made in July and conclude negotiations as soon as possible.
Every year, he said, small arms and light weapons took the lives of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. As such, it was crucial for the United Nations to remain fully engaged in the issue. 11 years had elapsed since the adoption of the Programme of Action, and the international community needed to focus more on concrete steps towards curbing small arms-related problems, rather than spending time on general exchanges of views. On other types of weapons, he said that cluster munitions and anti-personnel landmines were major causes of serious humanitarian harm. Also deeply worrying was the reported use of cluster munitions, as any use of those weapons was entirely unacceptable since they posed, not only grave dangers and harmed civilians during and after conflicts, but could also leave a lasting socioeconomic impact for many years or even decades to come.
DANIJELA ČUBRILO (Serbia), aligning with the European Union, said that harmonizing activities to address the critical issues of conventional arms control was of utmost importance in order to ensure the most effective utilization of available resources. Speaking to national efforts, she said that her Government had adopted a strategy on small arms and light weapons control for the period 2010 to 2015 as the general framework for preventing and combating their unlawful production, possession and trade. The overall goal was to establish an effective national control system on the basis of the best international practices.
On further national efforts, she said that Serbia had set up an efficient and inclusive export control system of weapons, military equipment, dual-use goods and related technologies, in cooperation with the European Union code of conduct on arms exports. Serbia ranked fourth in the world when it came to transparency in small arms trade, according to the 2012 Small Arms Survey, which provided telling evidence of the country’s achievements in that respect. Further, Serbia continued to work in good faith to fulfil all of its obligations under the Mine-Ban Convention. In order to enable the country to meet its remaining commitments related to clearing areas contaminated with mines within the specified timeframe, the assistance of international donors was vital.
SIE-TEBA NEUFVILLE (Liberia), associating with the African Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, said that countries such as his, which had experienced protracted civil war, knew the degree of suffering that conventional weapons brought to communities through their illicit use. Liberia believed that a tighter control regime limiting the use of those weapons to only the legitimate State authority would go a long way to curbing that menace. In view of that, countries in West Africa were cooperating in the framework of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to address arms proliferation.
He said that despite the failure to establish a common standard during the July arms trade treaty Conference, progress was notable in the President’s draft treaty text. Such an instrument was critical to achieving international peace, and Liberia urged all Member States to demonstrate the political will and flexibility required to reach consensus on the elements to be incorporated.
PAUL VAN DEN IJSSEL ( Netherlands) said his country had consistently supported efforts to better regulate the conventional arms trade. It was disappointed that the July Conference had concluded without the adoption of a treaty, but believed it was important to build on the progress. The Netherlands intended to propose a limited number of changes to the text. Regarding cluster munitions, the country had signed the Convention and it called upon all States to do so as well. The Netherlands had recently completed the destruction of its stock and decided to work towards of the legal prohibition of investments in cluster munitions production. The Netherlands was also extremely concerned about the reported use of cluster munitions by the Syrian Army, which demonstrated that country’s blatant disregard for the human life of its own citizens.
Regarding landmines, he said his country had supported clearance activities and victim assistance worldwide. The Netherlands had made 45 million euros available for those activities for 2012 to 2016. It urged States that had not yet joined the Mine-Ban Treaty to do so. Regarding the Register on Conventional Arms, the Netherlands had taken the lead in submitting relevant resolutions. Unfortunately, because there had been no final outcome to the July Conference, the international community should delay the start of the cycle of the group of governmental experts on the Register until 2013, once the provisions of the arms trade treaty were agreed. For that reason, the Netherlands would submit to the Committee a draft decision to postpone that cycle until 2013, which would still fall within the present United Nations budgetary biennium.
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