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Govt continued operations against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and affiliates as well as Syrian govt positions in northern Syria, while tensions with Greece remained elevated.
Military continued operations in south-eastern Türkiye, northern Syria and northern Iraq. Operations against PKK continued in rural areas of Diyarbakır, Bingöl, Muş and Batman provinces, while military continued airstrikes against militants in northern Iraq and Syria; presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalın 14 Jan asserted ground operation into Syria was “possible any time”. As military shelled Syrian govt positions, Ankara signalled openness to normalise ties with regime (see Syria); after Syrian FM 14 Jan said Türkiye had to end its “occupation” of Syria to normalise relations, senior Turkish official 18 Jan said everything could be negotiated, including total or partial withdrawal of Turkish troops from Syria.
Tensions with Greece remained elevated. Greek coast guard 5 Jan said one of its patrol boats fired warning shots to deter Turkish coast guard vessel trying to ram it in eastern Aegean sea. Greek media 8 Jan reported that Turkish UAV violated Greek airspace by flying over island of Kandeliousa. Greek FM Nikos Dendias 12 Jan called for European Union import ban on fish from Türkiye due to what he referred to as illegal fishing practices by Turkish vessels in Greek territorial waters. Greek PM Mitsotakis 19 Jan said two countries can “resolve differences”, while President Erdoğan 20 Jan responded “as long as you act wisely, we have no thought of attacking Athens”. As Greek news reports indicated Athens was planning to extend its territorial waters to 12 nautical miles south of island of Crete, Turkish officials voiced opposition.
Erdoğan announced elections for May, authorities arrested suspected Islamic State (ISIS)-linked individuals. Erdoğan 18 Jan said presidential and parliamentary elections would take place on 14 May; date yet to be confirmed. Constitutional Court 5 Jan blocked bank accounts of pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), depriving party of receiving election grants from treasury. Police detained some 80 individuals with alleged links to ISIS, primarily foreigners. Meanwhile, govt condemned Quran-burning incident at protest in Sweden; govt yet to ratify Finland’s and Sweden’s NATO membership bids.
Govt continued operations against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Syrian affiliate amid threat of ground operation in Syria, while tensions with Greece remained elevated.
Military continued operations against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)-linked militants. Security operations, including drone strikes targeting upper echelons of PKK and its Syrian affiliate People’s Protection Units (YPG), continued in both northern Syria and northern Iraq, albeit at lower intensity than in Nov (see Syria). Amid ongoing concern that Ankara remains intent on new ground incursion into northern Syria, possibly aimed at YPG-held town Tal Rıfat, west of Euphrates River, President Erdoğan 11 Dec requested Moscow to prioritise withdrawal of PKK/YPG elements from 30km border strip and 26 Dec said Türkiye will “enter a new phase of struggle that will destroy [their] entire infrastructure and resources”. In south eastern Türkiye, car bomb attack in majority Kurdish province of Diyarbakır 16 Dec injured eight police officers and one civilian.
Maritime tensions with Greece continued despite dialogue. National Security Council 1 Dec announced it expected Greece to immediately demilitarise Aegean islands off Turkish coast, while Greek foreign ministry 7 Dec rejected Türkiye’s “unilateral claims” and “threats of war”. Erdoğan 11 Dec stated that “TAYFUN missile will hit Athens … unless you behave”; Greek FM Dendias next day called rhetoric “unacceptable” from NATO ally. Turkish and Greek officials 16 Dec met in Belgian capital Brussels for Germany-brokered talks. Sides continued mutual accusations of airspace violations.
Political tensions heightened ahead of 2023 elections. Ahead of elections due between April and June, criminal court 14 Dec sentenced Istanbul metropolitan mayor and potential presidential candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu to two years and seven months in jail and banned him from politics for insulting members of Supreme Electoral Council, with appeal process underway. In response, tens of thousands of citizens 15-16 Dec rallied before Istanbul municipality.
In other important developments. Police detained some 85 individuals countrywide during month with alleged links to Islamic State. Defence Minister Hulusi Akar and intelligence chief Hakan Fidan 28 Dec met with Russian and Syrian counterparts, marking first official ministerial-level engagement between Türkiye and Syria in 11 years (see Syria).
Govt blamed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Syrian affiliate for deadly Istanbul bombing that killed six, launching strikes in Syria and Iraq and threatening new ground operations.
Govt attributed Istanbul attack to PKK and Syrian affiliate People’s Protection Units (YPG). In first street bombing targeting civilians since 2017, explosion 13 Nov in bustling Istanbul street killed six and injured at least 81 civilians; officials immediately blamed “the [PKK and YPG]”. Security forces 14 Nov announced arrest of alleged bomber and Syrian national Ahlam Albashir and 49 other suspects; PKK and YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces 14 Nov separately denied involvement. Govt 28 Nov claimed new evidence linking plot to YPG.
Military announced new operations in Syria and Iraq. Following bomb attack, military 20 Nov began “Operation Claw Sword”, conducting airstrikes in northern Syria and Iraq against scores of alleged PKK and YPG targets (see Syria and Iraq). President Erdoğan next day signalled possible ground incursions in both countries and 28 Nov stated govt was “determined to root out the PKK” in both; threat of ground incursion in northern Syria appeared more likely than in Iraq, and could trigger displacement and fuel escalatory cycle of violence with YPG (see Syria). Retaliatory cross-border attacks from northern Syria increased: notably, rocket attack 21 Nov killed three civilians in Gaziantep province. Earlier, operations against PKK within country concentrated on rural areas of Bitlis, Tunceli and Hakkari provinces.
Tensions with Greece remained elevated. Erdoğan 16 Nov reiterated threats that Türkiye “can come suddenly one night” and criticised Greece’s alleged militarisation of Aegean islands; Greece’s FM Nikos Dendias same day condemned threat. Meanwhile, Greek military 10 Nov reported Turkish armed drone flew over Greek islet of Kandelioussa. Turkish Oil Exploration Company 25 Nov said drillship was planning new mission in eastern Mediterranean, triggering uproar in Greek media.
In other important developments. Security forces arrested at least 90 individuals countrywide with alleged links to Islamic State. Ruling party officials 6 Nov met Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), signalling manoeuvring ahead of 2023 elections. Ankara continued efforts to normalise relations with Israel, Armenia and Egypt.
Military targeted Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and affiliates in Iraq, Syria and south east Türkiye, while tensions remained high with Greece amid new energy exploration agreement with Libya.
Military continued operations against PKK and its affiliates. Operations within Türkiye were concentrated in rural areas of Elazığ, Şırnak and Hakkari provinces. In northern Iraq, operations were concentrated particularly in Duhok region; notably, PKK attack 1 Oct killed Turkish soldier (see Iraq). In northern Syria, Turkish drone strike 6 Oct killed People’s Defence Units (YPG) commander in Aleppo provinces (see Syria); Ankara appeared to remain intent on conducting new military operation against YPG/Syrian Democratic Forces but is yet to secure approval of U.S. or Russia.
Ankara struck deal with Libya, prompting Greece’s condemnation. FM Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu 3 Oct announced govt and Libya had signed memorandum of understanding on joint energy explorations in their agreed Exclusive Economic Zone that was bilaterally declared in late 2019, which is disputed by Egypt and Greece. Greece protested deal, saying implementation “will be de facto illegal and, depending on its gravity, there will be a reaction both at a bilateral level and at the level of the EU and NATO”; Turkish foreign ministry 4 Oct accused Greece of “trying to usurp the legitimate rights of Turkey and Libya with its maximalist maritime jurisdiction demands”. Tensions between Athens and Ankara also remained high over irregular flow of migrants across land and sea borders with Ankara accusing Greece of illegal pushbacks, and Greece accusing Türkiye of deliberately pushing migrants westwards towards Greece.
In other important developments. Security units’ operations against Islamic State (ISIS) continued with nearly 90 individuals detained during month; notably, police 17 Oct detained six suspects in southern Adana province. President Erdoğan 6 Oct met Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan for first face-to-face meeting since countries began new process to normalise ties this year.
Tensions with Greece continued to mount amid maritime incident, while military targeted Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and affiliates in Iraq, Syria and south east Türkiye.Tensions persisted with Greece amid maritime incident and escalating rhetoric. President Erdoğan 3 Sept warned Greece would pay “heavy” price if it went “too far” and warned: “We may come suddenly one night”. Greek PM Mitsotakis 13 Sept responded: “We wait in the daylight for those who claim that they may come suddenly one night”. Ankara 10 Sept claimed two Greek Coast Guard boats opened harassment fire on Turkish ship in international waters, immediately protested; Greek Coast Guard next day said it opened fire when captain did not comply with orders. Turkish media outlets 25 Sept reported that Greece had deployed tactical armoured vehicles to some eastern Aegean islands, which Ankara asserts ought to be demilitarised under international treaties; Ankara next day summoned Greek ambassador and protested to U.S. over reported deployment of U.S.-supplied vehicles. Greece 29 Sept said Türkiye has no right “to flagrantly violate international law and threaten Greece with war” and Athens “is in favour of dialogue”. Tensions also rose after U.S. late Sept lifted decades-old arms embargo on Republic of Cyprus, prompting stern Turkish response (see Cyprus).Military continued operations against PKK and its affiliates. Operations during month held primarily in northern Iraq’s Duhok region, where clashes with PKK 11 Sept killed four Turkish soldiers and wounded two (see Iraq). In northern Syria, military 7 and 11 Sept struck villages near Tal Tamer; suspected Syrian Democratic Forces cross-border attack 18 Sept on Turkish border post in Suruç district of Şanlıurfa province killed Turkish soldier. In south east Türkiye, defence ministry 18 Sept announced it “neutralised” two “PKK/YPG members” in Hakkari province. In southern Mersin province, two PKK militants 26 Sept opened fire on police residence and later killed themselves by detonating suicide bombs.In other important developments. Security forces 2 Sept arrested Semra Güzel, pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) MP, on PKK membership charges. Police during month detained at least 90 individuals with alleged Islamic State (ISIS) links across country, majority of them foreigners.
Amid military operations against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), fighting escalated with Kurdish-led forces in Syria, while tensions persisted with Greece and govt restored ties with Israel. In escalation in northern Syria, military launched strikes on Kurdish-led forces, who claimed attacks on army sites in Turkish border provinces that killed several Turkish soldiers (see Syria). Military also continued operations against PKK in Iraq and Türkiye’s south east. In northern Iraq, Defence ministry 27 Aug said it killed nine PKK militants. In Türkiye’s south east, military 8 Aug launched new anti-PKK operation in rural areas of Bitlis province. Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu 19 Aug said only 124 PKK members remained within country’s borders and “no terrorist will remain in the countryside” in 2023. Authorities detained at least 30 pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) officials. Police detained at least 125 individuals with alleged links to Islamic State (ISIS). Meanwhile, tensions persisted between Ankara and Athens. Media outlets 16 Aug reported Greek authorities mid-month transported group of 38 migrants stranded on islet on Evros/Meriç river along Türkiye-Greece land border since mid-July to mainland Greece; Turkish authorities throughout month accused Athens of pushing back migrants on border, while Greek officials countered that Turkish security officials forced them to cross. Defence ministry 28 Aug accused Greece of locking on to Turkish jets with S-300 air defence systems on 23 Aug, which Greek authorities denied on 29 Aug. On diplomatic front, FM Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu 11 Aug announced brief exchange with Syrian FM Faisal Mekdad, in which former voiced need to reconcile regime and opposition, sparking speculation over potential shift in Syria policy. In similar vein, President Erdoğan 19 Aug mentioned potential “political dialogue or diplomacy” with Syrian regime. Erdoğan met Russia’s President Putin and Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy 5 and 18 Aug, respectively, as part of efforts to ensure safe grain passage from Ukraine. Ankara and Israel 17 Aug announced restoration of full diplomatic relations. Ankara, Sweden and Finland 26 Aug agreed to continue consultations over Nordic nations’ NATO bid.
Military continued operations against Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), tensions persisted with Greece, and govt pursued normalisation with Armenia. Military continued operations against PKK and its affiliates in northern Iraq, northern Syria and, to lesser extent, Türkiye, seeking to target PKK’s upper echelons. In notable escalation, artillery fire 20 July killed nine tourists and injured more than 20 in Duhok province in Iraq’s Kurdistan autonomous region; Iraqi and Kurdistan Regional Govt authorities blamed attack on Türkiye and issued harsh and critical statements, while Ankara rejected these claims and held PKK responsible (see Iraq). Security operations against Islamic State (ISIS) cells/operatives continued, leading to at least 110 individuals with alleged links to ISIS being detained across country, majority of them foreigners. Tensions remained elevated with Greece over Eastern Mediterranean/Aegean Sea disputes. President Erdoğan 1 July responded to calls for meeting with Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis at NATO summit, saying: “We said, ‘Sorry, but we don’t have time for such a meeting right now’. Because it is obvious that they are militarising the islands”; Erdoğan also asserted: “We don’t want war with Greece, but Greece does not keep its word”. Ankara and Athens also exchanged barbs over movement of irregular migrants across Aegean and Türkiye-Greece land border during month. Meanwhile, govt and Armenia made progress in normalising ties. Special representatives from both sides 1 July held their fourth meeting in Austrian capital Vienna. In historic move, Ankara and Yerevan agreed to – as soon as possible – enable crossing of land border by third-country nationals; they also agreed to commence direct air cargo trade between their countries. FM Çavuşoğlu 4 July announced that Türkiye had offered to hold normalisation talks in Yerevan. After govt lifted its veto on Sweden’s and Finland’s NATO bids last month, President Erdoğan 18 July warned: “If these countries do not take the necessary steps to fulfil our conditions, we will freeze the process”; it remained to be seen which steps two Nordic nations will take and whether those will satisfy Ankara’s demands.
Authorities pursued plans for military operation against Kurdish militants in Syria and detained dozens of Kurdish party members at home; meanwhile, tensions with Greece rose. President Erdoğan 1 June announced fifth cross-border operation into northern Syria, hoping to clear Tal Rifaat and Manbij of People’s Protection Forces (YPG) militants – Syrian affiliate of Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) – and extend 30km “safe zone” south of border (see Syria); U.S. and Russian opposition appeared, for now, to stall operation. Military also continued PKK operations in northern Iraq and, to lesser extent, south-eastern Turkey, albeit at slower pace compared to May. At home, authorities increased pressure on pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP). Notably, police 3 June detained over 40 HDP members, including party’s provincial co-chairs in Istanbul, Bingöl, and Edirne cities; 8 June detained over 20 Kurdish journalists in south-eastern majority Kurdish province of Diyarbakır, 16 of whom were later arrested on terrorism propaganda charges. Authorities detained at least 110 individuals with alleged Islamic State links during month. Tensions escalated with Greece over Eastern Mediterranean/Aegean Sea disputes. After complaining in May about Turkish military flights over Greek islands, Athens 1 June put its military on high alert and 6 June protested Türkiye’s actions at UN; Turkish officials accused Greece of militarising eastern Aegean islands in contravention of international treaties. Greek defence minister 7 June said Athens was “dangerously close to its limits”, while FM Çavuşoğlu same day questioned Greek sovereignty over some Aegean islands, which drew harsh reactions from Athens. NATO Sec Gen Jens Stoltenberg 14 June called on sides to de-escalate and resolve disputes; tensions and military manoeuvres in Aegean Sea raise risk that small incident could spark escalation. Defying expectations at NATO summit, Ankara 29 June lifted veto on Finland and Sweden’s accession in return for measures from both countries addressing its concerns. Ankara continued efforts to establish safe corridor to ship over 20 tonnes of grain from Ukraine, critical for global food security (see Ukraine). Govt remained invested in diplomatic efforts to normalise ties with regional adversaries, receiving Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman 22 June (see Saudi Arabia).
Authorities continued operations against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), arrested scores of suspected Islamic State operatives, and set strict conditions for new NATO bids amid Ukraine war. Operations – including drone strikes – continued in northern Iraq, northern Syria, as well as to lesser extent in Turkey’s south east throughout month. Turkish military continued operations against PKK in Metina, Avasin and Zap regions of northern Iraq as part of Operation Claw Lock launched 18 April (see Iraq). President Erdoğan 23 May announced new security operations along southern borders, although it remains unclear where they will concentrate (see Syria). Security units’ operations against Islamic State (ISIS) cells/operatives across country intensified during month; police detained more than 130 individuals with alleged ISIS links, mostly foreigners. Notably, police 16 May arrested three Syrians in south-eastern Şanlıurfa province, one of them reportedly planning to carry out suicide attack, 17 May arrested foreign national allegedly planning suicide attack in western Bursa province, and 24 May disrupted suicide plot by another foreign national in Istanbul city. Internationally, after Finland and Sweden during month announced intention to join NATO alliance amid Ukraine war, Ankara 13 May announced it would block requests unless both countries meet set of demands, including halting alleged support for PKK, extraditing individuals sought by Ankara and lifting arms export restrictions on Turkey. Erdoğan 13 May cited Ankara’s past decision to permit Greece’s re-entry into NATO as reason for caution with proposed accession by Finland and Sweden to alliance, saying “we do not want to make the same mistake again” due to “attitude Greece has adopted towards Turkey with NATO behind its back”. Referring to Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Erdoğan 23 May said “I will never agree to meet with him”; statement came after Mitsotakis in 17 May speech before U.S. Congress tacitly criticised Turkey for its actions in Aegean/East Mediterranean and asked U.S. not to supply Turkey with F-16 fighter jets; diplomatic tracks between Greece and Turkey on hold since mid-May. Turkish FM Çavuşoğlu 25 May visited Israel to meet his counterpart Yair Lapid; sides agreed to foster economic cooperation and carry on dialogue to normalise bilateral ties.
Military operations against Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) intensified in northern Iraq, human rights advocates received heavy sentences, and President Erdoğan visited Saudi Arabia. Military 18 April launched new operation against PKK in northern Iraq dubbed “Claw-Lock”; fighter jets targeted infrastructure and bases used by PKK militants in Metina, Zap and Avashin-Basyan regions (see Iraq). In Turkey, roadside bomb attack 20 April hit bus carrying prison guards in western Bursa province, killing one and injuring thirteen; Peoples’ United Revolutionary Movement, umbrella group spearheaded by PKK, 24 April claimed attack. Police crackdown against pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party continued during month, including 12 April detention of 91 individuals on charges of offering financial support to PKK. Security operations against Islamic State (ISIS) cells/operatives continued; police detained more than 120 individuals with alleged ISIS links across country. In contravention of legally-binding judgment of European Court of Human Rights from Dec 2019, penal court in Istanbul city 25 April sentenced businessman and human rights advocate Osman Kavala to life in prison without parole on charges of “attempting to overthrow the government” over his involvement in 2013 Gezi park protests; seven other well-known human rights activists also sentenced to 18 years in prison in same case. Ankara and Athens continued diplomatic engagement, notwithstanding tensions. FM Çavuşoğlu 4 April said dialogue channels between sides were more open today than ever before. Govts 19 April confirmed they will hold fourth round of talks on military confidence building measures (date yet to be announced). Greece 27 April protested “unacceptable provocation” following flights by Turkish fighter jets in Aegean Sea, claiming it violated Greek airspace; Turkey rejected claims and accused Athens of violating its airspace. Govt 22 April pulled out of NATO air force exercises due to be held in Greece in May. In move intended to pave way toward normalisation of ties with Saudi Arabia, Turkish court 7 April suspended case in absentia of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder suspects, deciding to transfer it to Saudi Arabia; human rights groups heavily criticised move. President Erdoğan 28 April visited Saudi Arabia to meet Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (see Saudi Arabia).
Military operations continued against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in south east and northern Iraq, albeit at reduced intensity, while Ankara engaged with Greece, Israel and Armenia. Military operations against PKK remained concentrated primarily in northern Iraq, with occasional clashes in Turkey’s south east and at Turkey-Syria border. Numerous airstrikes in northern Iraq and some ground operations in Turkey targeting PKK positions persisted, but at lesser intensity than in previous months likely due to harsh winter conditions in area’s mountainous terrain where conflict remains concentrated. Ground operations in Turkey’s south east during month took place in rural areas of Diyarbakır, Mardin, Hakkari and Hatay provinces. Turkish forces continued targeting senior PKK figures, including via use of armed drones. Turkish military 8 and 10 March targeted “PKK/Kurdish group People’s Defence Units (YPG)” positions at Turkey-Syria border. Security forces continued operations against Islamic State (ISIS) cells/operatives; police detained more than 100 individuals (including Turkish citizens and other nationals) with alleged links to ISIS across country. Relations between authorities and Greek govt improved, in large part catalysed by war in Ukraine. Greek PM Mitsotakis 13 March met with President Erdoğan in Istanbul city, where two leaders agreed on keeping communication channels open and improving bilateral relations; following meeting, Turkish presidency noted “Turkey and Greece have a special responsibility in the European security architecture, which is changing with Russia’s attack on Ukraine”. Defence Minister Hulusi Akar and Greek counterpart 16 March emphasised importance of maintaining dialogue; sides are expected to meet for fourth round of talks on military confidence-building measures in Ankara next month. Ankara remained invested in efforts to normalise ties with Israel and Armenia. In first visit by Israel’s head of state to country since 2007, President Isaac Herzog 9 March met Erdoğan, who described visit as “opportunity to revive the energy cooperation that began before”, signalling potential alternative pipeline or other collaboration that may carry Eastern Mediterranean gas to Europe. Armenian FM Mirzoyan 10 March attended Antalya Diplomacy Forum where he expressed willingness “to establish diplomatic relations and open borders with Turkey”.
Military continued operations against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in northern Iraq and south east Turkey, while President Erdoğan urged support for Ukraine following Russia’s invasion. Military operations against PKK remained concentrated in northern Iraq, with occasional clashes in south east and at Turkey-Syria border. Notably, military 2 Feb launched simultaneous cross-border aerial campaign (dubbed “Winter Eagle”), with airstrikes in northern Syria’s Derik city, and Sinjar and Makhmour regions in northern Iraq. Ground operations in south east during Feb were concentrated in rural areas of Şanlıurfa, Bingöl and Muş provinces. Security units’ operations against Islamic State (ISIS) cells/operatives across country continued, leading to detention of more than 85 individuals with alleged ISIS links. High inflation led to rising energy prices and ignited discontent. Notably, 11 mayors from main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), including Istanbul’s mayor, 8 Feb released joint statement calling for govt to ease “unbearable” burden of energy prices on local administrations. Detention of businessman and human rights advocate Osman Kavala remained point of tension with western allies; Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers 2 Feb referred Kavala case to European Court of Human Rights, which will determine whether govt, by not releasing Kavala, violated European Convention on Human Rights; Erdoğan 3 Feb dismissed decision as “biased”. Tensions persisted with Greece in eastern Mediterranean. FM Çavuşoğlu 10 Feb said that if militarisation of islands close to Turkey’s mainland continues, “sovereignty of these islands will be discussed”. Erdoğan 16 Feb stated that govt will make the highest-level warning if Greece “continues with its provocations” because it is “not possible” to remain silent on military activities carried out on islands which ought to be demilitarised. Turkish and Greek officials 22-23 Feb met for round of “exploratory talks” in Greek capital Athens that led to no substantial progress. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (see Ukraine), Erdoğan 24 Feb called attack “serious blow to peace and stability” and “unacceptable”; Erdoğan next day criticised NATO and EU for not taking more decisive steps in support of Ukraine. Turkish FM Çavuşoğlu 28 Feb announced that Turkey closed Bosphorus and Dardanelles waterways to passage of “all warships”.
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