Turkey–United States relations
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Turkey–United States relations in the post-World War II period evolved from the Second Cairo Conference in December 1943 and Turkey's entrance into World War II on the side of the Allies in February 1945, as a result of which Turkey became a charter member of the United Nations. Difficulties faced by Greece after the war in quelling a communist rebellion, along with demands by the Soviet Union for military bases in the Turkish Straits, prompted the United States to declare the Truman Doctrine in 1947. The doctrine enunciated American intentions to guarantee the security of Turkey and Greece, and resulted in significant U.S. military and economic support. This support manifested in the establishment of a clandestine stay-behind army, denoted the "Counter-Guerrilla", under Operation Gladio. After participating with United Nations forces in the Korean War, Turkey joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1952.
The reasons of decline in bilateral relations is manyfold. The primary issue is the two countries could not expand their bilateral relations from a security based alliance to a multi-dimensional partnership that is also based on economic and social relations. The friendliness of Turkey towards the United States has declined markedly since 2003, primarily a result of the United States' action in the Iraq War in 2003. Turkey views the war as a significant threat because Northern Iraq acts as a haven for the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Furthermore, Turkey views the destabilization of Iraq as a possible impetus for Kurds to claim their independence from Turkey, Iraq, and/or other Middle Eastern countries with significant Kurdish populations. A further strain in relations has been attributed to disagreements over the American support of Kurdish YPG fighters in the Syrian Civil War, with Turkey openly targeting them militarily.
- 1 Ottoman Empire
- 2 Early relationship
- 3 Turkish invasion of Cyprus
- 4 1980s
- 5 After the Cold War: 1990-2000
- 6 War on Terror: 2000-present
- 7 Current relations
- 7.1 2009 U.S. presidential visit to Turkey
- 7.2 President Obama on the Armenian Genocide
- 7.3 Continued cooperation in the War on Terror
- 7.4 2009 Conference on U.S.-Turkish Relations
- 7.5 Turkey and the Iranian Nuclear Crisis
- 7.6 2010 leaked diplomatic documents
- 7.7 Human rights and arms sales
- 7.8 The Arab Spring
- 7.9 Syrian Civil War, and the Kurdish question
- 7.10 Extradition of Fethullah Gülen
- 8 Visits
- 9 Cultural relations
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 Further reading
- 13 External links
The United States fought the Barbary Wars against the Barbary states, which were under Ottoman suzerainty.
Sultan Abdul Hamid II, in 1900 after being approached by American minister to Turkey, Oscar Straus (politician), sent a letter to the Moros of the Sulu Sultanate telling them not to resist American takeover and cooperate with the Americans at the start of the Moro Rebellion. The Sulu Moros complied with the order.
John Hay, the American Secretary of State, asked the Jewish American ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Oscar Straus (politician) in 1889 to approach Sultan Abdul Hamid II to request that the Sultan write a letter to the Moro Sulu Muslims of the Sulu Sultanate in the Philippines telling them to submit to American suzerainty and American military rule, the Sultan obliged them and wrote the letter which was sent to Sulu via Mecca where 2 Sulu chiefs brought it home to Sulu and it was successful, since the Sulu Mohammedans . . . refused to join the insurrectionists and had placed themselves under the control of our army, thereby recognizing American sovereignty. The Ottoman Sultan used his position as caliph to order the Sulu Sultan not to resist and not fight the Americans when they came subjected to American control. President McKinley did not mention Turkey's role in the pacification of the Sulu Moros in his address to the first session of the Fifty-sixth Congress in December 1899 since the agreement with the Sultan of Sulu was not submitted to the Senate until December 18. Despite Sultan Abdulhamid's "pan-Islamic" ideology, he readily acceded to Oscar S. Straus' request for help in telling the Sulu Muslims to not resist America since he felt no need to cause hostilities between the West and Muslims. Collaboration between the American military and Sulu sultanate was due to the Sulu Sultan being persuaded by the Ottoman Sultan. John P. Finley wrote that: After due consideration of these facts, the Sultan, as Caliph caused a message to be sent to the Mohammedans of the Philippine Islands forbidding them to enter into any hostilities against the Americans, inasmuch as no interference with their religion would be allowed under American rule. As the Moros have never asked more than that, it is not surprising, that they refused all overtures made, by Aguinaldo's agents, at the time of the Filipino insurrection. President McKinley sent a personal letter of thanks to Mr. Straus for the excellent work he had done, and said, its accomplishment had saved the United States at least twenty thousand troops in the field. If the reader will pause to consider what this means in men and also the millions in money, he will appreciate this wonderful piece of diplomacy, in averting a holy war. Abdulhamid in his position as Caliph was approached by the Americans to help them deal with Muslims during their war in the Philippines and the Muslim people of the area obeyed the order to help the Americans which was sent by Abdulhamid.
Turkey's most important international relationship has been with the United States since the end of the Second World War and the beginning of the Cold War. Turkey's association with the United States began in 1947 when the United States Congress designated Turkey, under the provisions of the Truman Doctrine, as the recipient of special economic and military assistance intended to help it resist threats from the Soviet Union. A mutual interest in containing Soviet expansion provided the foundation of U.S.–Turkish relations for the next four decades. As a result of Soviet threats and U.S. assistance against them, Turkey moved away from a single-party government towards democracy; in fact holding the first democratic elections in 1950, as a result of which President Ismet Inonu was replaced by Adnan Menderes, who was elected by popular vote. In support of overall United States Cold War strategy, Turkey contributed personnel to the United Nations forces in the Korean War (1950–53), joined NATO in 1952, became a founding member of the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) collective defense pact established in 1955, and endorsed the principles of the 1957 Eisenhower Doctrine. In the 1950s and 1960s, Turkey generally co-operated with other United States allies in the Middle East (Iran, Israel, and Jordan) to contain the influence of those countries (Egypt, Iraq, and Syria) regarded as Soviet clients. Throughout the Cold War, Turkey was the bulwark of NATO's southeastern flank, directly bordering Warsaw Pact countries and risking nuclear war on its soil during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Turkey received around 2.5 billion dollars in military aid from 1950 to 1970 (in 1970 dollars). Since 1954, Turkey hosts the Incirlik Air Base, an important operations base of the United States Air Force, which has played a critical role during the Cold War, the Gulf War, and the recent Iraq War.
Turkish invasion of Cyprus
After the 1974 Cypriot coup d'état, backed by the Cypriot National Guard and the Greek military junta, Turkey sent its forces to Cyprus on July 20, 1974. In doing so, Turkey claimed to protect the safety of Turkish Cypriots under the Treaty of Guarantee. As a result of the military operation, Turkish forces took control of the northern third of Cyprus and divided the island along what became known as the Green Line monitored by the United Nations.
Turkey, only 75 km away, had repeatedly claimed, for decades before the invasion and frequently afterwards, that Cyprus was of vital strategic importance to it. Ankara has defied a host of UN resolutions demanding the withdrawal of its occupation troops from the island. About 142.000 Greek Cypriots living in the north – nearly one quarter of the population of Cyprus – were forcibly expelled from the occupied northern part of the island where they constituted 80% of the population. These people are still deprived of the right to return to their homes and properties. U.S. Congress imposed an embargo on arms sales to Turkey leading to excessive tension and mistrust between Turkey and the United States.
The arms embargo was silently removed a few years later with the contribution of the geopolitical changes in the Middle East like Iranian Revolution. Recently[when?] published documents show the increasing importance of Turkey in the eyes of the Washington. National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski discussed with his staff about a possible American invasion of Iran by using Turkish bases and territory if the Soviets would decide to repeat Afghanistan scenario in Iran, although this plan did not materialize.
During the 1980s, relations between Turkey and the United States gradually recovered the closeness of earlier years. Although Ankara resented continued attempts by the United States Congress to restrict military assistance to Turkey because of Cyprus and to introduce congressional resolutions condemning the Armenian Genocide, the Özal government generally perceived the administration of President George H.W. Bush as sympathetic to Turkish interests. It was in this period that the Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) was established and started to build F-16 Fighting Falcon jets under licence in Turkey. Washington also demonstrated its support of Özal's market-oriented economic policies and efforts to open the Turkish economy to international trade by pushing for acceptance of an International Monetary Fund program to provide economic assistance to Turkey. Furthermore, the United States, unlike European countries, did not persistently and publicly criticize Turkey over allegations of human rights violations. Also, the United States did not pressure Özal on the Kurdish problem, another issue that seemed to preoccupy the Europeans. By 1989 the United States had recovered a generally positive image among the Turkish political elite.
After the Cold War: 1990-2000
The end of the Cold War forced Turkish leaders to reassess their country's international position. The disappearance of the Soviet threat and the perception of being excluded from Europe have created a sense of vulnerability with respect to Turkey's position in the fast-changing global political environment. Özal believed Turkey's future security depended on the continuation of a strong relationship with the United States. For that reason, he supported the United States' position during the Persian Gulf War, although Turkey's economic ties to Iraq were extensive and their disruption hurt the country. After the war, he continued to support major United States initiatives in the region, including the creation of a no-fly zone over northern Iraq, the Arab–Israeli peace process, and expanded ties with the Central Asian members of the CIS. Özal's pro-United States policy was not accepted by all Turks. The United States' use of Turkish military installations during the bombing of Iraq in 1991 led to antiwar demonstrations in several cities, and sporadic attacks on United States facilities continued in 1992 and 1993. Nevertheless, among Turkey's political elite, a consensus had emerged by January 1995 that Turkey's security depended on remaining a strategic ally of the United States. For that reason, both the Demirel and Çiller governments undertook efforts to cultivate relations with the administrations of presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
War on Terror: 2000-present
Turkey has remained a close ally of the United States, supporting it in the War on Terror in the post-September 11 climate. However, the Iraq War faced strong domestic opposition in Turkey and as such, the Turkish Parliament couldn't reach the absolute majority of 276 votes needed for allowing U.S. troops to attack Iraq from Turkey, the final tally being 264 votes for and 250 against. This led to a brief period of cooling in relations, particularly following the "hood event", which was perceived as an act of hostility in Turkey.
Ankara is particularly cautious about an independent Kurdish state arising from a destabilized Iraq. Turkey has fought an insurgent war against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a Kurdish guerrilla group (recognized as a terrorist organization by both the United States and the European Union) seeking Kurdish independence, in which more than 37,000 people have lost their lives. This has led Ankara to pressure the U.S. into clamping down on guerrilla training camps in northern Iraq, though the U.S. remains reluctant due to northern Iraq's relative stability compared to the rest of the country as well as its lack of spare forces to divert away from the more contentious areas of Iraq. On October 17, 2007, the Turkish Parliament voted in favour of allowing the Turkish Armed Forces to take military action against the PKK rebels based in northern Iraq. In response, U.S. President George W. Bush stated that he did not believe it's in Turkey's interests to send troops into Iraq.
In late 2007, Turkey recalled its ambassador to the United States after the House Committee on Foreign Affairs passed a United States resolution on the Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire. This resulted in a delay of a full House vote on Res. 106. Speaker Pelosi has pledged to bring the resolution to a full vote, but pressure from the White House and Turkey has kept her from doing so.
Nevertheless, the United States and Turkey share membership in NATO, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the G-20, and continue to cooperate in important projects, such as the Joint Strike Fighter program. The United States also actively supports Turkey's membership bid to join the European Union, lobbying frequently on behalf of Ankara through its diplomatic missions in EU capital cities. In June 2008, The United States and Turkey began to cooperate on peaceful uses of nuclear energy with a pact that aims for the transfer of technology, material, reactors and components for nuclear research and nuclear power production in Turkey for an initial 15-year period followed by automatic renewals in five-year increments that provides a comprehensive framework for peaceful nuclear cooperation between the two nations under the agreed non-proliferation conditions and controls. A parallel U.S. bipartisan resolution has recently highlighted the importance for Turkish Republic's key role in providing her western (E.U. and U.S.) and regional allies Eurasian energy security.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies has recently started a one-year initiative project to evaluate and enhance the Turkish Republic - United States strategic partnership, aiming for a plan of implementation of the concluded framework at the end of this phase.
2009 U.S. presidential visit to Turkey
Relations between Turkey and the United States received a jumpstart during the Obama administration’s first term, but the two countries were nevertheless unable to reach their ambitious goals.  U.S. President Barack Obama made his first official visit to Turkey, stopping off in both Ankara and Istanbul, on April 6–7, 2009. There had been critics in the U.S. who claimed that Turkey should not be rewarded by an early presidential visit as its government had been systematically reorienting foreign policy onto an Islamist axis, but as former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Mark Parris has stated, “Whatever the merits of this argument, the Obama administration, by scheduling the visit, have decisively rejected it.”
During his visit Obama urged Turkey to come to terms with its past and resolve its Armenian issues. Prior to this, during the 2008 U.S. Presidential election, he had criticised the then U.S. President George W. Bush for his failure to take a stance and stating that the "Armenian genocide is not an allegation, a personal opinion, or a point of view, but rather a widely documented fact supported by an overwhelming body of historical evidence". He responded positively to an announcement from sources in Ankara and Yerevan that a deal might soon be struck to reopen the border between the two states and exchange diplomatic personnel by indicating that although his own personal views on the subject remained unchanged, he may, in order to avoid derailing this diplomatic progress, refrain from using the word genocide in his upcoming April 24 speech on the question.
Turkish President Gül later referred to the visit as “evidence of a vital partnership between Turkey and the US,” whilst Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu pointed out that, “You are changing the psychological atmosphere,” of what was before “seen as a military relationship,” but as Obama made clear, “We are not solely strategic partners, we are also model partners,” and with this change in terminology, “The President wanted to stress the uniqueness of this relationship. This is not an ordinary relationship, it’s a prototype and unique relationship.” A U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing entitled The United States and Turkey: A Model Partnership under the chairmanship of the Head of the Subcommittee on Europe Robert Wexler was convened following, “the historic visit that Obama paid to Turkey,” and concluded that, “This cooperation is vital for both of the two states in an environment in which we face serious security issues in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, the Balkans, Black Sea, Caucuses and the Middle East, besides a global financial crisis.”
Following Obama’s visit Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Chief of the Turkish General Staff Gen. İlker Başbuğ played host to U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen in Ankara. In the course of the closed-door meeting they discussed the pledging of further Turkish support troops to Afghanistan and Pakistan where Turkish authorities have influence, the secure transport of troops and equipment from the port of İskenderun during the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, and the pro-Kurdish terrorists operating in south-eastern Turkey and northern Iraq.
On April 22, 2009, shortly after Obama’s visit, Turkish and Armenian authorities formally announced a provisional roadmap for the normalisation of diplomatic ties between the two states. The U.S. responded positively with a statement from the office of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, following a phone conversation with Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, which stated that, “The Vice President applauded President Sargsyan’s leadership, and underscored the administration’s support for both Armenia and Turkey in this process.” Turkish columnists however criticised the timing of the announcement believing it to have been made to placate the U.S. President in advance of his April 24 speech, with Fikret Bila writing in the Milliyet that, “the Turkish Foreign Ministry made this statement regarding the roadmap before midnight,” as it would allow Obama to go back on his campaign promise, to refer to the incident as genocide, which the Turkish government denies profusely, by pointing out to the Armenian diaspora that, “Turkey reached a consensus with Armenia and set a roadmap,” and, “there is no need now to damage this process.”
President Obama on the Armenian Genocide
“Ninety-four years ago, one of the greatest atrocities of the 20th century began. Each year, we pause to remember the 1.5 million Armenians who were subsequently massacred or marched to death in the final days of the Ottoman Empire. The Meds Yeghern must live on in our memories, just as it lives on the hearts of the Armenian people,” stated the Statement of President Barack Obama on Armenian and Greek Genocide Remembrance Day. As previously indicated U.S. President Obama had chosen to avoid the use of the word genocide in order to avoid upending recent pledges of a closer partnership with Turkey but for many the use of the Armenian term Meds Yeghern, translated as “Great Calamity”, did little to placate critics within the country.
Official Turkish response was highly critical with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stating, “We regard the statement concerning the 1914* events as an interpretation of history that does not reflect the truth and is thus unacceptable. We are saddened that the issue is being persistently exploited and many politicians are trying to win votes out of the controversy over the 1915 events. Turkey is not a country that can be flattered and then fooled.” Whilst Turkish President Abdullah Gül claimed, “Hundreds of thousand of Turks and Muslims also died in 1915. Everyone’s pain must be shared.” Although no official complaint was lodged US Ambassador to Turkey James Jeffrey was summoned to the Turkish Foreign Ministry the day after the statement, where officials expressed “views, comments, assessments, as well as the reaction.”
Obama confirmed in his speech that, “I have consistently stated my own view of what occurred in 1915, and my view of that history has not changed. My interest remains the achievement of a full, frank and just acknowledgment of the facts.” In response former U.S. Ambassador Parris has stated that the new U.S. administration had been “true to its public declarations of readiness to listen and be responsive to Turkish viewpoints and concerns”, before concluding that, “had the statement contained the word ‘genocide’, U.S.-Turkish relations would have gone into a deep freeze that would have taken years to thaw,” and although criticised Obama’s speech, “did no lasting harm.”
Continued cooperation in the War on Terror
The 2009 U.S. Secretary of State’s Country Report on Terrorism confirmed that cooperation in terrorism is a key element in America’s strategic partnership with Turkey, before going on to praise Turkish contributions to stabilise Iraq and Afghanistan and highlighting the strategic importance of the İncirlik Air Base in Adana used by both U.S. and NATO forces for operations in the region.
Questions have been subsequently raised, however, over the continued presence of U.S. nuclear weapons, reportedly stationed at the air base during the Cold War as part of the NATO nuclear sharing programme, after recent parliamentary debates in Belgium and Germany called for the removal of weapons stationed there under the same programme. Bilkent University Professor Mustafa Kibaroğlu speculates that if the Obama administration presses for the withdrawal of these weapons, which Turkey wishes to maintain, then Turkey-U.S. relations may be strained.
The U.S. Secretary of State’s report also contained information on the PKK and other terrorist groups operating in Turkey, whom the U.S. and Turkish authorities share intelligence on, highlighting the September 12, 2006 attack on Diyarbakır and the July 27, 2008 attack on Güngören before going on to mention the ongoing Turkish investigation into the Ergenekon network and concluding that, “the details of the case were murky, however, and Ergenekon’s status as a terrorist organisation remained under debate at year’s end.”
A separate report presented to U.S. President Obama by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, which had previously urged him to raise the subject of religious freedom during his 2009 presidential visit to Turkey, concluded that Turkey’s interpretation of secularism, “resulted in violations of religious freedoms for many of the country’s citizens, including members of the majority and, especially, minority religious communities.”
A U.S. Democratic Party delegation group including U.S. Senators Robert Casey, Edward E. Kaufman, Frank Lautenberg and U.S. Congressman Timothy Waltz met with Turkish officials in Ankara on 30 May to confirm, “Turkey can always depend on the US, while the US can always rely on its close friendship with Turkey.”
2009 Conference on U.S.-Turkish Relations
The 28th American Turkish Council Annual Conference on U.S.-Turkish Relations entitled “US-Turkey: Overcoming Challenges in an Era of Change” commenced in Washington on 31 May 2009 with key speakers Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül and Chief of the Turkish General Staff İlker Başbuğ both thanking the U.S. for its support in anti-terror actions against the PKK, with Başbuğ adding, “Our relations are very comprehensive and cannot be limited to one specific issue,” and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu elaborating “I think where there’s the most promise is in the idea that Turkey and the United States can build a model partnership, one in which a majority Christian and a majority Muslim nation, a Western nation and a nation that straddles two continents can come together; we can create a modern international community that is respectful secure and prosperous. This is extremely important,” and, “Model partnership is not an issue of preference, but it is a necessity.”
Turkey and the Iranian Nuclear Crisis
In April 2010, Washington stepped up its efforts to impose a new round of sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program. Key powers such as Turkey, India and China oppose the adoption of a new round of sanctions against Tehran. As a result, the U.S. Congress has delayed arms sales sought by the Turkish military.
2010 leaked diplomatic documents
According to leaked diplomatic cables, Erdoğan was described by U.S. diplomats as having "little understanding of politics beyond Ankara" and as surrounding himself with an "iron ring of sycophantic (but contemptuous) advisors". He is said to be "isolated", and that his MPs and Ministers feel "fearful of Erdogan's wrath". Diplomats state that "he relies on his charisma, instincts, and the filterings of advisors who pull conspiracy theories off the web or are lost in neo-Ottoman Islamist fantasies".
The alleged cables also highlight Turkish concerns that upgrades to General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcons had "precluded Turkish access to computer systems and software modification previously allowed".
Human rights and arms sales
The Arab Spring
The U.S. under President Obama was reluctant to get deeply involved in the Arab World and was generally supportive of Turkish efforts in the region.
Syrian Civil War, and the Kurdish question
Relations between the United States and Turkey have shown signs of deterioration during the Syrian Civil War and especially over the handling over the Kurdish question. The American forces in the Syrian Civil War are openly allied with the Kurdish YPG fighters and support them militarily. Turkey has considered the YPG fighters as "terrorists". Turkey overtly defied American orders of ceasing Turkey's military bombardment of the YPG fighters in their bid to take the town of Azaz in northern Syria. Signs of strain were then displayed when Barack Obama refused to have a formal meeting with Erdogan when the latter visited the United States in March 2016.
Extradition of Fethullah Gülen
After the failed coup attempt in July 2016, Turkey demanded that the United States government extradite Fethullah Gülen, a cleric and Turkish national living in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. However, the U.S. government demanded that Turkey first produce evidence that he was connected with the coup attempt. Due to perceptions that former U.S. Secretary of State and Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is friendly towards the Gülen movement, many Turkish government supporters reportedly favored Republican Party presidential nominee Donald Trump in the United States' 2016 presidential election.
|This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (October 2008)|
|Guest||Host||Place of visit||Date of visit|
|President Dwight Eisenhower||President Celal Bayar||Çankaya Köşkü, Ankara||December 7, 1959|
|Prime Minister İsmet İnönü||President Lyndon B. Johnson||White House, Washington, D.C.||June 22–23, 1964|
|Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit||President Jimmy Carter||White House, Washington, D.C.||May 31, 1978|
|President George H. W. Bush||President Turgut Özal||Ankara and Istanbul||July 20–22, 1991|
|Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit||President Bill Clinton||White House, Washington, D.C.||September 27, 1999|
|President Bill Clinton||President Süleyman Demirel||Çankaya Köşkü, Ankara||November 15, 1999|
|President Ahmet Necdet Sezer||President Bill Clinton||White House, Washington, D.C.||September 4, 2000|
|President George W. Bush||President Ahmet Necdet Sezer||Ankara and Istanbul||June 27–30, 2004|
|President Barack Obama||President Abdullah Gül||Ankara and Istanbul||April 6–7, 2009|
|Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan||President Barack Obama||White House, Washington, D.C.||May 16, 2013|
American international schools in Turkey
- Bursa American College for Girls (1854–1928)
- Robert College (founded 1863)
- Talas American College (1871–1968)
- Üsküdar American Academy (founded 1876)
- American Collegiate Institute (founded 1878)
- Anatolia College in Merzifon (1886–1924)
- Tarsus American College (founded 1888)
Turkish schools in the United States
Around 120 Gülen charter schools operate within the United States.
- Foreign relations of the United States
- Foreign relations of Turkey
- Turkish invasion of Cyprus
- Turkish lobby in the United States
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