Two years ago, Burma’s military regime usurped power from a democratically elected government – blatantly rejecting the will of Burma’s people, setting the country on a disastrous path that has killed and displaced thousands, reversing the hard-fought democratic progress achieved over the last decade.
Since the military’s coup on February 1, 2021, the political, economic, and humanitarian crisis in Burma has only grown more dire, with reports indicating nearly 3,000 killed, nearly 17,000 detained, and more than 1.5 million displaced. The regime’s ongoing scorched-earth campaign continues to inflict harm and claim the lives of innocent people, fueling a worsening armed conflict within Burma and insecurity beyond its borders.
Today, the United States is imposing sanctions on six individuals and three entities linked to the regime’s efforts to generate revenue and procure arms, including senior leadership of Burma’s Ministry of Energy, Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), and Burma’s Air Force, as well as an arms dealer and a family member of a previously designated business associate of the military. We are also sanctioning the Union Electoral Commission, which the regime has deployed to advance its plans for deeply flawed elections that would subvert the will of the people of Burma. We are taking today’s action in conjunction with actions also being taken by the United Kingdom and Canada. To date, we have sanctioned, under Executive Order 14014, 80 individuals and 30 entities to deprive the regime of the means to perpetuate its violence and to promote the democratic aspirations of Burma’s people.
The United States remains firm in our position that the regime’s planned elections cannot be free or fair, not while the regime has killed, detained, or forced possible contenders to flee, nor while it continues to inflict brutal violence against its peaceful opponents. Many key political stakeholders have announced their refusal to participate in these elections, which will be neither inclusive nor representative, and which almost certainly will fuel greater bloodshed. The United States will continue to support the pro-democracy movement and its efforts to advance peace and multiparty governance in Burma. We commend those working to strengthen unity and cohesion among diverse groups who share a vision of a genuine and inclusive democracy in Burma.
The United States will also continue to promote accountability for the military’s atrocities, including through support to the UN’s Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar and other international efforts to protect and support vulnerable populations, including Rohingya. We welcome the actions taken by our allies and partners to urge the regime to end the crisis. We look forward to building on our cooperation with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its members, with the UN following the recent passage of the UN Security Council Resolution on the situation in Burma, and with the international community writ-large, as partners seek to uphold the ASEAN Five-Point Consensus, intensify diplomatic and economic pressure against the military, and support a peaceful, democratic, and prosperous Burma.
For more information about these sanctions’ designations, please see the Department of the Treasury’s press release.
The Department of State’s Bureau of Energy Resources Assistant Secretary Geoffrey R. Pyatt will travel to Houston, Texas, February 1-2. Reflecting the Department’s priority of support for American business, Assistant Secretary Pyatt will meet with leaders of the Houston based energy industry on the complementary agendas of energy security and energy transition. The Assistant Secretary will also participate in a roundtable discussion with the Ukrainian diaspora community hosted by the Consulate General of Ukraine in Houston. During the roundtable, Assistant Secretary Pyatt will highlight the importance of local Houstonian efforts to provide humanitarian assistance for Ukraine and share the Administration’s ongoing work to repair and strengthen Ukraine’s energy infrastructure in the face of Russia’s brutal attacks against civilian targets.
Reflecting the Department’s modernization goals to advance Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in the workforce, and to further incorporate Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) expertise into foreign policy work, the Assistant Secretary will participate in a career discussion with students at Rice University. He will also celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Department’s energy training course implemented in partnership with Rice University and the Energy Workforce and Technology Council.
For further media information, please contact ENR-PD-Clearances@state.gov.
The UN refugee agency (UNHCR), together with 41 international and national partners, launched today the 2023 funding appeal for over $500 million to provide life-saving assistance to more than 900,000 refugees in Sudan, the second-largest asylum country in Africa.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Good afternoon. So we’ve had a busy few days at a pivotal time for the region. The United States is determined to work with our partners to foster a more stable, secure, and prosperous Middle East. The horrific terrorist attacks in Jerusalem, the escalation of violence on the West Bank have underscored the significant challenges to security and stability that the region faces and that we face.
We began this trip in Cairo, where I met with President Sisi and Foreign Minister Shoukry as well as with Egyptian human rights defenders and young leaders. Among a wide range of issues in my meetings with the government, we discussed the role Egypt and other neighbors can play in helping Israel and the Palestinians de-escalate, reduce tensions, and lay the foundation for a more peaceful path.
Upon arriving in Israel, I expressed my condolences and those of the American people to Israel and to the families of the seven civilians who were killed in the horrific terrorist attack outside a synagogue in Neve Yaakov. In the wake of this and the subsequent attack on an Israeli father and son, I reaffirmed to Israel and its people the United States’ ironclad commitment to Israel’s security.
A rising tide of violence has resulted in the loss of many innocent lives on both sides. As I discussed with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas and everyone I met in Israel and the West Bank during this visit, all sides must take steps to prevent further escalation in violence and restore calm. That’s the only way that we can create conditions in which people’s sense of security will start to improve and fear can start to recede.
Across my meetings with Israel’s Government, the Palestinian Authority, our partners in Cairo, I heard a deep concern about the current trajectory. But I also heard constructive ideas for practical steps that each side can take to lower the temperature, to foster greater cooperation, to bolster people’s security. And so I’ve asked senior members of my team to stay on in the region and continue discussions on how these steps might actually be advanced.
These are the steps that the parties themselves must lead on, and we have no illusions that heightened tensions can be defused overnight. But we’re prepared to support efforts here and with partners in the region if the parties have the will to do so. The United States is always ready and willing to be a partner in the cause of peace and security.
On my return home and in the coming days, I’ll also continue to engage with partners in the broader region who share our serious concerns about the escalating cycle of violence and like us want to support the parties in finding a way forward.
So restoring calm is our immediate task, but over the longer term we have to do more than just lower tensions. The United States is committed to working toward our enduring goal of ensuring that the Palestinians and Israelis enjoy equal measures of freedom, security, opportunity, justice, and dignity. And it’s President Biden’s firm conviction that the only way to achieve that goal is through preserving and then realizing the vision of two states for two peoples. The United States will continue to oppose anything that puts that goal further from reach, including but not limited to settlement expansion, legalization of illegal outposts, a move towards annexation of the West Bank, disruption to the historic status quo on Jerusalem’s holy sites, demolitions and evictions, and incitement and acquiescence to violence.
We will also support all efforts to move us closer to peace, expand the horizon of hope, advance equal rights and opportunities for Palestinians and Israelis. That includes building on the efforts that we’ve made over the past two years to improve the lives of the Palestinian people in concrete ways.
We bolstered our assistance to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, including approximately $50 million in new funding that I announced today in Ramallah, enabling the provision of essential services like food, vaccines, education, as well as vital aid for refugees. That brings U.S. total funding for Palestinians over the last two years to nearly $940 million. We’re supporting quality health care through the East Jerusalem Hospital Network, and we’re making real progress toward implementing an agreement to provide a 4G network in the Palestinian territories.
We’re also working to broaden and deepen the circle of peace between Israel and its neighbors. As we demonstrated earlier this month when U.S. officials joined representatives from Israel, Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates for the first meeting of the Negev Forum Working Groups. Again, this was the largest assemblage of officials from Arab countries and Israel since Madrid, going back many decades.
On crucial issues like food and water security, clean energy, regional security, our efforts are creating collaboration that will improve the lives and livelihoods of people across the region and erode longstanding biases and distrust.
Even as we’re making real strides toward expanding peace with Israel’s neighbors, we continue to work together to tackle shared threats. This morning, Minister of Defense Gallant and I discussed ways to deepen our cooperation to confront and counter the Iranian regime’s destabilizing actions in the region and beyond. I also met with opposition leader Lapid, who shares the same commitment to counter Iran.
Tehran’s deepening ties with Moscow and the sophisticated weaponry that they’re exchanging to enable one another’s aggression are among the many reasons that we’ve raised with Israel the importance of providing support for all of Ukraine’s needs – humanitarian, economic, and security – as it defends its people against Russia’s brutal war of aggression.
We discussed a number of ways to advance the United States’ and Israel’s shared security interests, just as I did yesterday in my meeting with the prime minister, with President Herzog, and with Foreign Minister Cohen. Across these discussions, I made clear that America’s commitment to Israel’s security is unwavering, just as it has been for nearly 75 years.
Finally, the United States will continue to deepen our bonds here with partners outside of government. Today I had the opportunity to spend time with Palestinian and Palestinian American civil society leaders, entrepreneurs, business owners in Deir Dibwan who shared the vital work they are doing to improve the lives of their communities. And I started my day by hearing from a group of young Israeli leaders, Jews and Arabs, who are doing inspiring and critical work, from advancing LGBTQ rights and the rights of people with disabilities to building trust and ties between communities.
These meetings were a reminder that the civil society in both of our countries plays an indispensable role – an indispensable role in defending and strengthening the rights of – and principles at the heart of a free and open society, and helping people tackle some of their most pressing challenges. It’s a reminder of how citizens are willing to continue to engage, to hold their leaders accountable, and to keep working to create the world that they and their communities want. They can count on the United States in a partner in all of those endeavors.
With that, I’m happy to take some questions.
MR PRICE: We’ll start with Tracy Wilkinson of The LA Times.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Tracy.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Thank you for taking this time, because I know you have had a couple of very busy days. We can all bear witness.
You just mentioned the deep concern over the trajectory that you saw here. And in your meetings both with Israeli officials and people and Palestinian officials and people, I wanted to dig a little deeper into that. Do you concur with or at least understand Israelis who fear that some of the new – some of the actions of their new government threaten democracy here? And after meeting with – with Prime Minister Netanyahu, do you believe that he can and wants to preserve democracy?
And on the Palestinian side, Palestinians are increasingly disillusioned with the two-state solution. Many have given up on it, convinced that Israel will never let it happen, yet you continue to advocate it, as you just did a minute ago. After meeting with President Abbas, do you think he is the person to resolve the statehood issue, to defuse the tensions, and to fight terrorism? In other words, do you have confidence in him and in the Palestinian Authority? Thank you.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thanks. Let me take the second part of the question first and then come to the first part. Look, as always, we’re focused on the policies that governments, administrations pursue, not individual personalities. And so we’re focused on what the Palestinian Authority is doing both to work to improve the lives of the Palestinian people as well as to engage responsibly with Israel on, first and foremost, defusing the current situation, the current cycle of violence; reducing tensions, not escalating them; calming things down, not ramping things up. That is the immediate focus. And I heard both from Palestinians, including President Abbas, as well as from Israelis some ideas for how that – how we can move that forward, which is why I asked some of my colleagues to stay behind to support the efforts that are being made to calm things down.
That’s really the first order of business. And my hope is that if that succeeds, then we can look to both sides to take some positive steps to try to rebuild confidence, rebuild trust, and that in turn lays the foundation for at some point pursuing two states. But I think in this moment the most immediate challenge is, as I said, defusing the cycle of violence that has people here, first and foremost, but around the region deeply, deeply concerned. As I said, the President – President Biden – remains committed to and convinced of the importance of a two-state solution, but one step at a time. We have to focus first on making sure that Israelis and Palestinians defuse the current situation and then start to build some positive steps into their relationship.
With regard to the first part of the question – and I think you heard me address this yesterday – the relationship that we have with Israel is based fundamentally on shared interests and shared values, and it’s been that way for 75 years. I spoke about some of those values yesterday, including, of course, respect for human rights, equal justice under the law, equal rights for all, the rule of law, free press, a robust civil society. And as I mentioned, I had an opportunity to engage with some representatives of civil society just today. And to be sure, Israel has a very robust civil society, and we’ve seen that in recent days. And again, I saw that today in my own meetings.
With regard to the proposed reforms, there’s clearly a very vibrant debate that’s going on, a discussion that’s going on in Israel, and these debates are a very healthy part of a vibrant democracy. In fact, they’re unique to democracies. And as democracies, one of the things that we recognize is that building consensus on new proposals is the best way to make sure that not only are they embraced but that they actually endure. All of this, of course, is for Israelis themselves to work out, but we look forward, generally speaking, to working with Israel to advance the interests and values that have been at the heart of this relationship, as I said, for 75 years.
MR PRICE: Gili Cohen of Kan News.
QUESTION: Thank you, Secretary, for doing this. Following the legislative reform, several members of the Israeli coalition, including one minister, has said after your comments yesterday with Prime Minister Netanyahu that the Israeli prime minister doesn’t need a lesson in democracy. I wonder what you think about such comments. And also, Secretary, have you received any assurance from Netanyahu about how he going to implement this plan?
And another question regarding the escalation: Prime minister office announced after the terror attacks that they will promote steps to strengthen the settlements and even increase the number of guns held by citizens. Do you think that this might contribute to another escalation? Thank you.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Two things. What I talked about yesterday and again talked about just now reflects the shared values that the United States and Israel have had and held for more than 75 years, and it is nothing more and nothing less than that. And I continue to be inspired by the vibrancy with which Israel shares those values, something that, again, we’re seeing right now, and I think I can say the same thing about my own country, the United States.
With regard to the second part of your question, we have been clear and consistent in our conviction that neither side should take any unilateral actions that, right now, potentially would add fuel to a fire and, over the medium to long term, would make the prospects of achieving two states even more distant than they currently are.
MR PRICE: Will Mauldin, Wall Street Journal.
QUESTION: Thank you so much for doing this. I wanted to ask you, in your meetings with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Gallant, if any new issues or overlap came up in the issue of Iran? Any new ideas for U.S. policy after the failure of the JCPOA talks to make headway? And did you express support for those – their efforts to target Iran’s hardware (inaudible) nuclear bombs or for cooperating with Russia militarily?
Also just wanted to ask you a Palestinian question. Do you think you’ve made any headway here? You said you had some ideas that were aired. Would you like to share any of those with the press or with the American public?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. On Iran, we have – Israel and the United States – a shared commitment. One, that Iran not acquire a nuclear weapon, and two, that we continue to stand together with other countries as well against the many destabilizing and dangerous actions that Iran is engaged in in the region, and now, increasingly, beyond. One of those actions is – that we talked about was the provision by Iran to Russia of drones, technology to be used in Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.
And as I mentioned before and as we also discussed with our Israeli counterparts, this is a two-way street. Not only is Iran providing sophisticated military equipment to Russia, but Russia in turn is doing the same with Iran, which is, of course, of real concern to us and real concern to Israel.
So we continued what has been an ongoing discussion of ways that we can continue to work together, collaborate – and not just us – with other countries – in countering the malicious actions that Iran is engaged in, whether it’s in this region or beyond.
With regard to what I heard on this trip, no, I’m not going to detail the ideas. But I think there are some concrete ideas from both sides that, if pursued, would really help diffuse the current situation, and it’s why I asked some of my colleagues to stay behind to support the efforts that both parties are making to try to get to a better path.
It is fundamentally up to them. They have to work together to find a path forward that, as I said, both diffuses the current cycle of violence and, I hope, also leads to positive steps that each can take to build back some trust, to build back some confidence, to help make material improvement in people’s lives, to foster a greater sense of security for Israelis and Palestinians alike. That will take time. The immediate task, as I said, is to diffuse this cycle of violence. And if both sides are genuinely committed to it, I think there are steps that they can take and that we heard from them that would help achieve that.
MR PRICE: We have time for a final question from Lana Kamleh.
QUESTION: Good evening. I’m Lana Kamleh (inaudible) first let me thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak here on behalf of my colleagues in Palestine TV. (Inaudible) from working in East Jerusalem for the third year in a row. I would like to remind you of the phone call between President Abbas and President Biden in May 2021 and the meetings that followed highlighting the importance of halting unilateral measures such as settlement activity, killing, house demolition, and the attacks on Al-Aqsa Mosque, et cetera. What (inaudible) this government to stop such unilateral actions difficult? Thank you.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. All I can tell you is that we have long been and remain opposed to unilateral steps by either side that, in the first instance, actually fuel tensions and lead to I think a more dangerous environment for everyone, and that fundamentally make more difficult and more distant the prospect of moving toward two states. So that hasn’t changed. I repeated that in my meetings throughout my stay here, as I just did now. And again, we look to both sides not to take steps that actually make things worse, and as well to take some positive steps that can create a better path forward for both Israelis and Palestinians.
Even before the 2024 primary officially kicks off, Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis are trading blows in attempts to out-MAGA each other, and the latest salvo features DeSantis calling out Donald Trump for being a loser and Trump hitting DeSantis for courting the anti-vax crowd.
DeSantis has been taking shot after shot from Trump over trying to rewrite his record on COVID-19.
CNN: “Former President Donald Trump took aim at Ron DeSantis Saturday, claiming the Florida governor and his team are ‘trying to rewrite history’ regarding their Covid-19 pandemic response, and called the potential presidential run by his GOP rival ‘very disloyal.’”
CNN: “The former president also took aim at DeSantis’ shifting posture on vaccines, saying the Florida governor had ‘changed his tune a lot.’”
Washington Post: “A review of DeSantis’s public positions on the vaccines shows a full reversal that has unfolded gradually since 2021…DeSantis began as a full-throated supporter of the vaccines before he started bashing them.”
HuffPost: “DeSantis, Who Once Praised Vaccines, Now Wants To Prosecute Those Who Pushed Them”
Now, DeSantis is hitting back against Trump’s attacks and subtly calling him a loser.
DeSantis: “If you take a crisis situation like COVID, the good thing about it is when you’re an elected executive, you have to make all kinds of decisions. You gotta steer that ship. And the good thing is that the people are able to render a judgment on that, whether they reelect you or not.”
It isn’t the first time DeSantis has waded into a shadow contest with Trump. Last week, DeSantis praised former candidate for RNC chair Harmeet Dhillon over Ronna McDaniel in a perceived slight to the former president.
Politico: “Trump has not officially taken sides in the tug-of-war between current RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel and Harmeet Dhillon although some of his top aides such as Susie Wiles have been supportive of McDaniel. Dhillon told a POLITICO reporter in California — where the vote takes place today — that Trump’s team was ‘whipping votes’ for McDaniel… So then like a thunderbolt, DeSantis weighed in with praise for Dhillon telling Charlie Kirk, the founder of the conservative Turning Point USA who is supporting Dhillon, that ‘new blood’ and a ‘change’ was needed at the RNC.”
Trump and DeSantis aren’t the only 2024 hopefuls trading swipes as Republicans race to capture the MAGA base.
The Forward: “Pompeo accuses Haley of not being a ‘team player’ and being too focused on her political ambitions.”
Kristi Noem spokesperson: “Governor Noem was the only Governor in America on national television defending the Dobbs decision. Where was Governor DeSantis? Hiding behind a 15-week ban.”
Newsweek: “Nikki Haley took a swipe at former president Donald Trump as he hit the campaign trail in her home state of South Carolina on Saturday… Haley, who is expected to get her presidential campaign underway in the coming months, wrote on Twitter on Saturday: ‘It’s time for a new generation to lead.’”
Officials from the United States and the Republic of India gathered, January 30-31, at the Department of State for the eighth meeting of the U.S.-India Civil Space Joint Working Group (CSJWG). The meeting was co-chaired by Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Jennifer R. Littlejohn and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Associate Administrator for International and Interagency Relations Karen Feldstein for the United States, and Mr. Shantanu Bhatawdekar, Scientific Secretary of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) for India.
The CSJWG discussions covered collaboration in Earth and space science as well as human space exploration, global navigation satellite systems, spaceflight safety and space situational awareness, and policies for commercial space. Participants also considered implementation of guidelines and best practices developed by the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Use of Outer Space (COPUOS) to ensure the long-term sustainability of outer space activities.
The United States and India have strong bilateral cooperation in space. The NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) mission, planned to launch in 2024, is expected to systematically map Earth, using two different radar frequencies to monitor resources such as water, forests and agriculture. The mission will provide important Earth science data related to ecosystems, Earth’s surface, natural hazards, sea level rise and the cryosphere.
Deputy Assistant to the President and Executive Secretary of the National Space Council Chirag Parikh, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, Department of State Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs Monica Medina and Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu gave welcoming remarks on behalf of the United States. The U.S. delegation included officials from the Department of State, NASA, Department of Homeland Security, Federal Aviation Administration, the United States Geological Survey and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the Department of Commerce. Mr. S. Somanath, Chairman of ISRO, and Ambassador of India to the United States Taranjit Singh Sandhu delivered remarks on behalf of India. The Indian delegation included representatives from ISRO, the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change, the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, the Ministry of Earth Sciences and the Ministry of External Affairs.
The U.S. Department of State’s Office of Art in Embassies (AIE) has launched a year-long art diplomacy for democracy initiative, the Democracy Collection campaign, to promote democracy through art. The initiative includes artist exchanges focused on rights, freedoms, and equality, hosted by U.S. ambassadors in various cities around the world; a traveling exhibition that reflects the story of U.S. democracy; a worldwide art competition for middle and high school students on the topic of democracy; and an expansion of the Art in Embassies repository of art for diplomacy with democracy-themed works. The initiative commemorates the 60th anniversary of Art in Embassies and will be celebrated on September 19th at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
The U.S. Department of State established the office of Art in Embassies in 1963, adapting a public-private program that began ten years earlier by the Museum of Modern Art. The exhibitions and collections created by AIE play a vital role in our nation’s public diplomacy. The works are carefully selected to reflect the pride and innovation of America’s cultural sector and to make cross-cultural connections in the regions and states in which they are displayed.
For further information, please contact Megan Beyer at BeyerMC@state.gov or visit art.state.gov.
Yesterday, President Biden visited Baltimore, Maryland, to kick off a major Bipartisan Infrastructure Law project that will address the largest rail bottleneck on the Northeast Corridor between Washington, D.C. and New Jersey. The project will create 30,000 jobs — most of which will not require a college degree — and is yet another example of how President Biden is turning “infrastructure week” into an infrastructure decade.
See below for what they’re reading in Maryland this morning about how President Biden and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law are delivering results for the American people.
“As a U.S. senator, Biden commuted between his home state of Delaware and Washington on Amtrak for years. The president said he had been through the tunnel 1,000 times while logging more than a million miles on the passenger railroad. ‘He’s been stuck by the delays of this tunnel many times,’ U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, said during the program. The old tunnel, built during the post-Civil War administration of Republican President Ulysses S. Grant, is considered a bottleneck for Amtrak and MARC commuter trains because it forces them to creep along at 30 mph or less.”
“The tunnel is slated to be replaced with help from the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure legislation, which is expected to significantly increase the capacity, speed and efficiency of the tunnel. When work is done, trains could go as fast as 110 mph as opposed to the 30 mph they travel right now because of the steep twists and turns inside the tunnel. ‘The structure is deteriorating, the roof is leaking, the floor is sinking,’ Biden said. ‘This is the United States of America for God’s sake, we know better than that.’”
“Greeted by the cheerful blare of a train horn, President Joe Biden stood Monday before a decrepit rail tunnel that he estimated he’s been through 1,000 times — fearing for decades it might collapse. ‘For years, people talked about fixing this tunnel,’ Biden told a crowd in Baltimore. ‘Back in the early ’80’s, I actually walked into the tunnel with some of the construction workers. … This is a 150-year-old tunnel. You wonder how in the hell it’s still standing.’ ‘With the bipartisan infrastructure law, though, we’re finally getting it done.’”
Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks at the “Reframing Neglect”: a fine art and documentary photography exhibition to celebrate World Neglected Tropical Diseases Day, in New York today:
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