Thursday, December 18, 2014

Concluding Statement of the Organizers, UN African Meeting on Palestine

Concluding statement of the Organizers

Concluding statement of the Organizers

1. The United Nations African Meeting on the Question of Palestine was convened by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People in Rabat on 1 and 2 July 2010. Participants in the Meeting included internationally renowned experts, including Israeli and Palestinian, representatives of United Nations Members and Observers, parliamentarians, representatives of the United Nations system and other intergovernmental organizations, representatives of civil society, academic institutions and the media.

2. The objective of the Meeting, at this time of intensified efforts at resuming the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, was to promote broad international support, including by African States, for a solution of the conflict based on a shared vision of two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. The Meeting discussed the current status of Jerusalem, including the religious and cultural significance of the Holy City, and its status in international law and United Nations resolutions as a city occupied since 5 June 1967. The Meeting considered the question of Jerusalem in the context of the permanent status negotiations. Participants in the Meeting also looked into the importance of building an international consensus on a just and viable solution of the question of Jerusalem and the role of African States and other actors in that regard.

3. The Meeting was opened by H.E. Mr. Taïb Fassi-Fihri, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of the Kingdom of Morocco. In his statement, he underlined that the United Nations, in conformity with the text and spirit of its Charter, could not be just an international forum to follow up the development of the Palestinian cause or denounce the ongoing aggressions by the Israeli authorities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. It had to take full responsibility by playing a pioneering role for an effective and coherent mobilization of necessary efforts towards ending the tragic conflict that negatively affected the interests of all parties and represented a real threat to international security and stability. He also emphasized the active efforts made by

CPR/AFMQP/2010/19

His Majesty King Mohammed VI, Chairman of the Al-Quds Committee, to preserve the legal status of Al-Quds and maintain its spiritual identity, and to provide all kinds of support to the Makdesi population in order to promote their living conditions in the areas of housing, social work, health care and education, whether directly or by means of the Bayt Mal Al-Quds Al-Sharif Agency, where Morocco remained the major contributor and sponsor.

4. In the course of the Meeting, the participants reviewed the current status of the political efforts to revive a meaningful political process between Israelis and Palestinians. Speakers stressed the importance of a comprehensive peace on the basis of the relevant General Assembly and Security Council resolutions, the Madrid terms of reference, the principle of land for peace, the Arab Peace Initiative and the Road Map, and deplored recent developments on the ground, which were seriously complicating the ongoing efforts to advance negotiations. The participants examined the current situation in and around Jerusalem and underlined the imperative of a just and viable political solution of the question of Jerusalem as a permanent status issue. They discussed the support of African countries for a permanent settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by promoting the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people through the United Nations system as well as through regional mechanisms, including the African Union, the League of Arab States, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and various civil society initiatives in the region.

5. The Organizers welcomed the support by the participants for the two-State solution, with the State of Israel living side by side in peace and security with an independent, democratic, contiguous and viable State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital. Hope was expressed for early progress in the negotiations, that would lead to consider all permanent status issues, including settlements, borders, Jerusalem, refugees, water and security. There was consensus that for any peace efforts to be successful, it was imperative to find a just and viable political solution of the question of Jerusalem.

6. Noting that the question of Jerusalem remained a key permanent status issue in any future Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, the Organizers note that Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem has never been internationally recognized. In that context, the Organizers concur with the 8 December 2009 conclusions by the Council of the European Union, as well as the 19 March 2010 statement by the Middle East Quartet, reaffirming that the annexation of East Jerusalem had not been recognized by the international community and that the status of Jerusalem was a permanent status issue that had to be resolved through negotiations between the parties.

7. The Organizers reiterate that the presence of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, is illegal under international law. They call on Israel to immediately cease settlement construction, including the so-called “natural growth”, and to dismantle settlement outposts. Of particular concern were plans for the expansion and consolidation of large settlement blocks in and around East Jerusalem, especially in the so-called “E-1” area, which cut off the City from the rest of the West Bank, thereby undermining and prejudging the outcome of permanent status negotiations. Pointing out that the moratorium on settlements announced by the Government of Prime Minister Netanyahu only provided for a temporary and partial freeze on settlement construction in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the Organizers join the participants in the Meeting in calling for a permanent and complete halt to all settlement activities, including in Occupied East Jerusalem, which has been excluded from the moratorium. The Organizers emphasize that there will be no international recognition of any changes to the pre-1967 borders, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed upon by the parties.

8. The Organizers express serious concern about illegal Israeli practices aimed at altering the status and demographic character of East Jerusalem, including the continued house demolitions, eviction of Palestinian residents, revocation of Palestinian residency rights, settlement construction and transfer of settlers. They underline that such unilateral actions constitute violations of international law and impede all efforts at re-launching meaningful permanent status negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Moreover, the Organizers deplore all discriminatory Israeli practices against Palestinians in East Jerusalem, including restrictions on access to and residence in East Jerusalem, construction of the wall in and around East Jerusalem and the further isolation of the City from the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The continuation of such illegal and unhelpful practices calls into question the credibility of the stated Israeli commitment to negotiations towards a two-State solution. The Organizers call upon Israel to ensure that provocative steps are not taken in the City, particularly at this delicate stage when the goal must be to build trust and support political negotiations. The Organizers call upon the United Nations, in particular its Security Council, to take, as soon as possible, responsibility for the situation in East Jerusalem and to take the necessary decisions, in consultation with the interested political groupings, to prevent its further deterioration.

9. Drawing attention to the historical, cultural and religious significance of the Holy City, the Organizers wish to remind about the importance of recognizing that religious sites in the West Bank have a special spiritual significance to many people worldwide, including Jews, Muslims and Christians. In that context, the Organizers express regret at the inclusion, earlier this year, of a number of many sites in Jerusalem, including the Tomb of the Patriarchs (Al-Haram Al-Ibrahimi) and Rachel’s Tomb (Masjid Bilal or Qubbat Rakhil), in the list of Israel’s “National Heritage Infrastructures”. They also express serious concern at the continued Israeli excavations in and around the Al-Haram Al-Sharif compound in East Jerusalem and called for an end to all acts of provocation and incitement, in particular at or near the City’s holy sites, which are likely to fuel tensions in the entire region. They stress the need to find a solution to the question of Jerusalem that would take into account the concerns of both sides, while ensuring access to the City’s holy sites by the people of all religions.

10. The Organizers join the participants in welcoming the recently renewed international efforts at re-launching the Middle East peace process, including the initiatives by United States Special Envoy George Mitchell. The Organizers are worried that these serious efforts can be undermined by recent developments on the ground, including the announcement by the Israeli Government of 1,600 new housing units in the “Ramat Shlomo” and the most recent case, involving the approval by a Jerusalem municipal planning body of a plan to demolish 22 Palestinian homes in the Al-Bustan area of the Silwan neighbourhood in East Jerusalem to make room for an Israeli tourist centre. These actions constitute clear violation of the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

11. The Organizers have been deeply concerned about the fatal Israeli attack of 31 May on the international flotilla, heading towards Gaza with humanitarian aid. The Organizers strongly condemn this attack in international waters, and consider it a violation of international law. They fully support the call of the United Nations Secretary-General for establishing an international investigative panel to look into the incident. At the same time, the Organizers are of the view that the incident could have been avoided, had Israel lifted its blockade of Gaza, which for more than three years has been suffocating the 1.5 million people living in the Gaza Strip, while preventing them from rebuilding their lives in the aftermath of the comprehensive destruction caused by the Israeli attack on Gaza 18 months ago. The Organizers deplore the continuing blockage of many items and materials vital for humanitarian relief and reconstruction efforts and the obstacles faced by patients trying to leave the Gaza Strip in search of treatment for serious and chronic illnesses. While noting the recent slight easing of the restrictions on Gaza, the Organizers stress the need for concrete action to lift the siege completely and promptly to allow the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and people through the crossings.

12. The Organizers remind Israel, the occupying Power, of its responsibilities under international humanitarian law, in particular the Fourth Geneva Convention, which stipulates that Israel, as a High Contracting Party, is obliged to protect the Palestinian civilian population under its occupation and to act within the ambit of international law. The applicability of the Convention to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, has been repeatedly confirmed by the Conference of the High Contracting Parties, as well as by the United Nations General Assembly, Security Council and the International Court of Justice. Reiterating the need for a full implementation of Security Council resolution 1860 (2009), the Organizers call on Israel, the occupying Power, to immediately lift the blockade and to open all crossings in accordance with the 2005 Agreement on Access and Movement and to completely implement the other provisions of the Agreement.

13. The Organizers also urge the Palestinian leadership, the leaders of all factions and all Palestinians to strive for national reconciliation as an essential condition for ending the occupation, achieving a just and lasting solution of the question of Palestine and the establishment of a viable, contiguous, sovereign and democratic Palestinian State. The Organizers express appreciation for the Egyptian efforts in achieving such reconciliation as soon as possible.

14. Despite the current stagnation in the peace process and the many negative developments on the ground, the Organizers express firm belief that there is no alternative to continuing negotiations and to the two-State solution. But time is of essence. The Organizers also express their appreciation for the immediate and continued engagement of the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council, Governments, national parliaments and inter-parliamentary organizations, regional and international organizations, and civil society organizations, including from the African region, to achieve a just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They emphasize that a critical condition for achieving a permanent settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an end to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, occupied since June 1967.

15. The Organizers encourage the international community, including the countries of Africa, to strengthen their support for the peace process, in particular at a time when it faces unprecedented challenges. They reiterate the permanent responsibility of the United Nations towards the question of Palestine, until it is resolved in all its aspects based on the relevant United Nations resolutions. In that context, the participants commended the Committee for organizing meetings, like this one in Rabat, that mobilize Governments and public opinion in different regions in support of a comprehensive, just and lasting solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

16. The Organizers commend the action of African Governments, intergovernmental organizations, and civil society in support of Israelis and Palestinians in their quest for a peaceful settlement of the conflict and urge them to continue their moral and political support of the Palestinian people. They encourage the African countries to continue to support action on these issues at the regional and international levels, including at the United Nations, the Non-Aligned Movement, the African Union, the League of Arab States, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and other intergovernmental mechanisms.

17. The Organizers commend the active and constructive role played by Morocco, an Observer in the Committee, for its tireless efforts to assist the Palestinian people in achieving its inalienable rights. They express their deep appreciation to His Majesty King Mohammed VI of Morocco, Chairman of the Al-Quds Committee of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, for his tireless efforts and timely actions to preserve the religious and civilizational character of Al-Quds Al-Sharif. They also praised His Majesty’s constructive initiatives in support of Palestinian issues, including that of Jerusalem. Recalling the International Forum on Jerusalem, which was convened in October 2009 in Rabat by the Al-Quds Committee and the Yasser Arafat Foundation, the Organizers applaud the Kingdom of Morocco for its constructive contribution to international efforts towards finding a solution to the question of Jerusalem, which would ensure the peaceful co-existence of peoples of various religions in the Holy City. They endorse the appeal made by His Majesty King Mohammed VI at the Forum for the establishment of an “International Coalition” of Governments, international organizations and civil society actors in favour of preserving the legal status of Jerusalem as a space for dialogue and peaceful coexistence.

18. The Organizers expressed their profound gratitude to the Government of Morocco and its Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation for hosting the Meeting, for the assistance and support extended to the Committee and the United Nations Secretariat in its preparation, and for the warm reception and generous hospitality extended to them.

Closing statement of Ambassador Tanin as Chair of UN African Meeting on Palestine

Statement by

H.E. Zahir Tanin

Head of the Delegation of the

Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights

of the Palestinian People

Excellencies,

Ladies and gentlemen,

As the United Nations African Meeting on the Question of Palestine is drawing to a close, allow me, on behalf of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, to express our sincere appreciation to all the participants. Our special thanks go to the distinguished panelists for sharing with us their valuable insights and expertise. Their presentations reminded us that despite the efforts of major international stakeholders and the declared intentions of the parties, the peace process has not yet moved forward. At the same time, facts continue to be created by the occupying Power on the ground threatening to render the two-State solution unattainable. Of particular concern, as repeatedly stated at this Meeting, is the situation in East Jerusalem.

The Committee appreciated very much the participation of Palestinian and Israeli experts, parliamentarians, politicians and representatives of civil society pointing out that the majorities in both societies support the two-State solution, including a just and viable solution for Jerusalem. The other participants in the Meeting, including the speakers from Africa and other international experts confirmed that the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict remained a matter of utmost concern not only for Governments and politicians, but for broad sections of the population on all continents. The question of Jerusalem, in particular, is prone to spark emotions among millions of people, no Government can neglect, because of the city’s status as a spiritual center of the three religions.

We know that there are still large obstacles lying ahead in the peace process. We clearly know what those hurdles are. We know that crucial provisions of international law and United Nations resolutions are not being upheld. We are all actually aware of what needs to be done to bring peace, as articulately described in the concluding document just presented. Some of the issues we have discussed during the past two days are extremely sensitive, politically and emotionally, but none of them can be neglected and excluded from the permanent status negotiations if a lasting peace is to be achieved.

The main message sent out by this Meeting should be one of encouragement. Encouragement to our Palestinian and Israeli friends, to the politicians, parliamentarians and decision-makers to continue on the path to peace, to address, as matter of priority, the concerns of their own constituencies, in order to prepare the ground for the acceptance of the bold decisions that need to be taken and implemented, if peace shall ultimately be achieved between the two peoples. Internal divisions will have to be overcome, extremists isolated, and voices of reason and reconciliation strengthened.

The message of our Meeting should also encourage the international community to continue its efforts, at the political, economic and humanitarian levels, in support of the peace process. Speakers called upon the Members of the Middle East Quartet, in particular the United States, to stay engaged in order to achieve a breakthrough in the negotiations. Being in Morocco, the importance of the Arab Peace Initiative was emphasized, and Arab States encouraged to pursue it vigorously for the benefit of all peoples in the region. And the international community is called upon to continue its direct assistance to the Palestinian people, to alleviate the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza suffering from the three-year long Israeli blockade and to support the state-building efforts of the Palestinian Authority.

Our Committee was created some 35 years ago by the General Assembly to remind the international community of its legal and moral responsibilities to restore the long-lost justice. The Committee reiterates that the root cause of the conflict is the occupation by Israel of the Palestinian Territory, which has lasted for more than four decades. Palestinians have suffered for far too long. Years of occupation have also affected the lives of Israelis. This unacceptable situation must be urgently redressed to allow both Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace and security.

Excellencies,

Ladies and gentlemen,

On behalf of the Committee and all participants in this Meeting, allow me to reiterate our sincere appreciation to the Government of Morocco for allowing us to gather in such a hospitable place to have these important deliberations. We enjoyed very much the cooperation and services received from the staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation. We very much look forward to continuing this excellent cooperation with the Moroccan Government.

Before I conclude, I would like to express the Committee’s sincere appreciation to the Division for Palestinian Rights of the United Nations Secretariat, the conference services team from the United Nations Office at Vienna and Geneva, interpreters, press officers, technicians, the staff of the Tour Hassan Hotel and all others for their contribution to the successful holding of the Meeting.

I would also like to inform you that the documentation of this Meeting will be posted on the web site maintained by the Division for Palestinian Rights, and a report of this Meeting will be published, in due course, as a publication of the Division.

I wish you all a safe journey back home.

I now declare closed the United Nations African Meeting on the Question of Palestine.

Opening Statement of Ambassador Tanin as Chair of UN African Meeting on Palestine

Statement by

H.E. Mr. Zahir Tanin

Head of the Delegation

Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights

of the Palestinian People

CPR/AFMQP/2010/8

Excellencies,

Distinguished speakers,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my pleasure and privilege to welcome you, once again, to the United Nations African Meeting on the Question of Palestine convened by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, under the theme “Strengthening the support by African States for a just and lasting solution of the question of Jerusalem.”

At the outset, allow me to reiterate our Committee’s sincere appreciation to His Excellency Mr. Taïb Fassi Fihri, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of the Kingdom of Morocco, for the decision of the Moroccan Government to host this important Meeting. Our Committee highly appreciates the role of His Majesty King Mohammed VI as the Chair of the Al-Quds Committee of the Organization of the Islamic Conference in the efforts to preserve the Islamic heritage in Jerusalem. We also highly value His Majesty’s leadership in providing humanitarian and other vital support to the Palestinian people. We, therefore, are grateful to be able to hold our Meeting on Jerusalem here in Rabat. We also appreciate Morocco’s participation in our Committee’s activities as an active Observer.

Our Committee was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1975, with a mandate to promote the realization by the Palestinian people of their inalienable rights. The General Assembly has defined those inalienable rights as the right to self-determination, national independence and sovereignty, and the right of the Palestinians to return to their homes and property from which they had been displaced and uprooted. In its political advocacy role, the Committee keeps the international community abreast of the various aspects of the question of Palestine through its annual programme of activities at United Nations Headquarters and worldwide, including the holding of international meetings and conferences such as this African Meeting.

We decided to focus the deliberations of this Meeting on the question of Jerusalem, which is a key element in the Israeli-Palestinian permanent status negotiations. The issue is highly sensitive in every aspect. Leaving it unresolved would undermine ultimate success in the negotiations to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace or a solution of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Last October, an important conference, the Al-Quds International Forum, was held here in Rabat. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon summarized in his message to the conference the position of the United Nations emphasizing that Jerusalem was a core issue that had to be resolved through negotiations, along with all other core issues. He stressed that the international community did not recognize Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem, which remained part of the occupied Palestinian territory subject to the terms of the Fourth Geneva Convention. If peace was to be achieved, he said, the goal had to be for Jerusalem to be the capital of two States living side-by-side in peace and security, with arrangements for the holy sites acceptable to all, which was the road to the fulfillment of both the vision of Security Council resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative.

Our Committee fully aligns itself with this important position of the international community on the status of Jerusalem. It repeatedly expressed alarm about Israel’s settlement expansion in East Jerusalem, as well as demolitions of Palestinian homes, evictions, land expropriation and residency rights revocations. The most recent example is the approval by a Jerusalem planning body for a plan to demolish 22 Palestinian homes in the Al-Bustan area of the Silwan neighbourhood in the eastern part of the city to make room for an Israeli tourist centre. Such actions constitute clear violations of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. East Jerusalem is occupied territory as is the rest of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The Committee calls on the High Contracting Parties to the Convention to act against those violations by Israel, a High Contracting Party herself, as stipulated in Article 1 of the Convention, which obliges the High Contracting Parties to undertake to respect and to ensure respect for the Convention. The Geneva Conventions lay down crucial principles of international humanitarian law that apply to all conflict situations. Their persistent violation by one party only serves to undermine the effectiveness of the international legal system and may have serious consequences for international peace and security. The Committee also recalls that Security Council resolution 252 (1968) considered that “all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, including expropriation of land properties thereon, which tend to change the legal status of Jerusalem, are invalid and cannot change that status,” the position repeated in many subsequent resolutions.

Our Committee’s position is that any agreement that does not encompass making East Jerusalem the capital of a future Palestinian State will not lead to sustainable Israeli-Palestinian peace. A negotiated agreement on the status of Jerusalem should include internationally guaranteed provisions aimed at ensuring the freedom of religion and of conscience of its inhabitants, as well as permanent, free and unhindered access to the holy places by the Palestinian people and peoples of all religions and nationalities.

With regard to the rest of the occupied West Bank, illegal settlement activity continues in spite of the temporary moratorium on new construction declared by Israel, based on approvals issued prior to the moratorium. Although cautiously welcomed internationally as a step in the right direction, the announced moratorium of settlement expansion was not considered sufficient for creating for a climate conducive to conducting negotiations on all permanent status issues. A central concern has always been that East Jerusalem had been explicitly excluded from the moratorium, which has been proven by the worrisome recent developments in the City.

Our Committee would like to remind Israel, the occupying Power, that the presence of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, is illegal under international law. All of the West Bank land as determined by the pre-1967 demarcation lines is to become the future Palestinian State’s territory, and any modification to this principle can only be made through agreements between the parties.

The Committee has repeatedly denounced the ongoing construction of the separation wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, with all its adversary effects on the Palestinian population of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. It has called upon Israel to cease any further construction and dismantle the wall in line with the ICJ Advisory Opinion. Israel is obliged to make reparations to the Palestinian population for all damage caused by this construction.

With regard to the situation in the Gaza Strip, the Committee is of the view that the siege of Gaza imposed by Israel, the occupying Power, amounts to collective punishment of the 1.5 million Palestinians living there. Our Committee notes with great concern that the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip has been steadily worsening, exacerbated by the Israeli military offensive of December 2008. We in the Committee, have repeatedly called for a lifting of the blockade and the opening of all crossings to allow for the long overdue reconstruction and rehabilitation work to begin. The situation in the Gaza Strip gained wide international attention through the events surrounding the Free Gaza Flotilla the objective of which was to delivering the much-needed humanitarian goods to the Palestinians in Gaza. Israel’s violent naval assault on the ships was widely condemned by the international community. We are of the view that it demands an impartial and credible investigation into the incident in international waters. At the same time, the international community calls for a full end of the Israeli blockade and the opening of all crossings, based on the comprehensive 2005 Access and Movement Agreement.

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Faced with very difficult circumstances of the occupation, the Palestinian Authority has been successfully carrying out its two-year State-building plan led by Prime Minister Fayyad, developing national institutions and infrastructure, improving the security apparatus and bringing investment to the West Bank. The Palestinian Authority has launched a diplomatic initiative with a view to achieving international support for Palestinian statehood at the end of the scheduled implementation of the Fayyad Plan in August 2011. The Committee expresses full support for this diplomatic initiative and calls upon the entire world community, including all African States, to be prepared to recognize the State of Palestine based on the 1967 borders, including through a Security Council resolution, once statehood has been declared by the Palestinian leadership at an appropriate time. In particular, the Palestinian people and their supporters have a lot to benefit from the experience of African States in their quest for decolonization, independence and sovereignty, as well as their paths to economic independence and sustainable development. The role of the African Group at the United Nations in support of the Palestinian cause is also critical.

First and foremost, it is very important that the international community support the current proximity talks by encouraging the parties, Israel and the Palestinians, to take the steps necessary to built mutual trust and confidence in order to proceed to direct negotiations on all outstanding issues. Violence, incitement, settlement expansion and other provocative acts can easily compromise an already fragile state of the talks and need to be avoided at all costs. We all understand that time is of the essence. Losing the present opportunity might jeopardy the achievement of the two-State solution, and thus, the aspirations of the Palestinian people to live in their own, sovereign State, and of the Israeli people to live in peace and security in a prospering Middle East region.

For our part, the Committee will continue to carry out its mandate given by the General Assembly in order to bring an end to the decades of occupation and realize the two-State solution through the establishment of an independent, contiguous and viable State of Palestine based on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, living side by side with Israel in peace and security, in accordance with the relevant Security Council resolutions, international law and previous agreements, supported by the Arab Peace Initiative.

Thank you very much.

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