Ending the war in Yemen between internal aspirations and external dictates

Talks about the need to end the war waged by the Arab Coalition in 2015 to restore legitimacy have become an issue raised by several local, regional and international parties, in addition to the United Nations’ approach in this regard. The war, led by the Arab Coalition, which eliminated of what remained of the state, reinforced the presence of armed militias and failed to eliminate the Sana’a coup carried out by the Houthis in September 2014 in alliance with the late president, Ali Abdullah Saleh. The war also caused the creation of the largest humanitarian crisis in the world, after it destroyed the economy and tore society apart and now threatens the unity and stability of Yemen.

This paper discusses the possibility of stopping the war in Yemen in light of regional and international efforts. What is the war-ending agreement? And to what extent will the Yemenis influence this agreement?

Calls to stop the war:

  • UN calls to stop the war

The call to stop the war in Yemen remained a present international demand. The Secretary-General of the UN, Antonio Guterres, called for an end to the absurd war in Yemen, as he described it, in a statement to CNN in December 2017, adding that what we need is a political solution. He also expressed his hopes that the coalition would lift its blockade on Yemen’s ports and Sana’a International Airport. On August 3, 2018, the World Health Organization called on the warring parties in Yemen to cease fire, allowing vaccination against cholera and warning of a resurgence of the epidemic.

On October 18, 2022, the UN envoy to Yemen, Hans Grundberg, stressed the importance of ending the violence in Yemen and starting a comprehensive political process that ends the war and human suffering and restores security and stability to Yemen and the surrounding region.

On January 2, 2022, the United Nations Children’s Fund UNICEF called for an end to the war in Yemen, allowing children to live a normal childhood.

  • International calls to stop the war

The arrival of the Democratic Party at the White House, and Joe Biden taking over the presidency of the U.S. government, had an impact on strengthening this proposition, especially since his policy relied on ending the role of the U.S. in hostile operations in Yemen and stopping related arms deals.

He clearly stated this approach, on February 4, 2021, by saying: “The war in Yemen must stop,” and he gave a directive to “impose a truce”. On May 8, 2021, the U.S. called for the importance of an international consensus in the Security Council to end the war in Yemen, according to a statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In early February 2022, President Joe Biden appointed diplomat Timothy Lenderking as his special envoy to Yemen to end the war.

For its part, the European Parliament voted, on February 11, 2021, by the majority on a resolution calling for an end to the war in Yemen, stressing that there is no solution to the crisis except through negotiations between the warring parties. On February 19, 2021, the foreign ministers of Britain, Germany, France and the United States of America stressed the urgent need to end the war in Yemen, reaffirmed their unwavering commitment to the security of their regional partners and expressed — during a meeting in Paris — their common determination to reduce tensions in the Gulf region and to work closely together to support the efforts of the UN Special Envoy, Martin Griffiths, to end the war and address the humanitarian crisis.

For its part, Sweden appointed Peter Simpney as its special envoy to Yemen to follow up on the Yemeni file, putting pressure on the various parties toward resolving the current crisis and starting a peace process in which all local parties to the conflict will participate.

The British Ambassador to Yemen, Richard Oppenheim, expressed during a discussion session, organized by Tamdeen Youth Foundation, in May 2022, about a British draft resolution, an alternative to the UN Security Council Resolution No. 2216, stressing that the Security Council will be ready to issue the new resolution when there is real consensus on a political settlement between the parties in Yemen.

  • Regional calls to stop the war

In light of the increasing UN and international demands to stop the war, the Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, announced on March 22, 2021, an initiative to end the war in Yemen, explaining — during a press conference in Riyadh — that the initiative calls for a comprehensive ceasefire, under the supervision of the UN.

Iran called on the UN to stop the war in Yemen and announced its support for a political settlement that would end the conflict that has been going on for more than seven years. On January 28, 2022, the Iranian Foreign Ministry said, in a statement, that the Foreign Minister affirmed — on the phone with the Secretary-General of the UN — Tehran’s support for a political solution to end the war in Yemen. This call by Iran comes despite Tehran’s support for the Houthi group and the provision of support and supplies to it throughout the years of the war.

On March 7, 2021, Qatar also called, through its Foreign Minister, Sheikh Muhammad bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, for the need to end the war in Yemen and to adopt a dialogue and political solution — during his meeting with his Yemeni counterpart, Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak, in Doha — as Qatar’s position is firm in supporting the legitimacy and the unity, security and territorial integrity of Yemen.

In its editorial, on June 7, 2021, Oman (daily newspaper) revealed a regional and international consensus that ending the war in Yemen is among the changes that the region will witness in the coming months. It stated that: “The war in Yemen these days is enjoying regional and global diplomatic momentum that has contributed to shedding light on the Yemeni issue, its developments and paths of recovery, and it has also exerted great pressure on many countries involved in the war that has been raging since 2014.”

It also stressed that “the coming days are full of many details that could end the suffering of the Yemeni people,” and indicated that Oman “is witnessing a supportive diplomatic movement these days, within the international movement, to end the war in Yemen.”

Local parties called to stop the war in Yemen:

Locally, the voices of Yemenis are still calling for an end to the ongoing war, as it has reached a dead end under the leadership of the coalition countries, and the negative results are not consistent with the goals announced by the coalition when the military operations of Decisive Storm were launched on March 26. 2015.

In a joint statement, on November 30, 2021, the Speaker of the Consultative Council, Ahmed Obaid bin Dagher, and the Deputy Speaker of the Parliament, Abdulaziz Jabari, demanded an immediate end to the war, calling for a new national alliance to achieve peace, describing the country’s situation as catastrophic, adding that the situation was not entirely created by the Yemenis, but its solution depends on them. Their statement said: “The military option reached a dead end, almost declaring itself a failure.”

On March 27, 2020, the advisor to President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Muflahi, indicated that the situation has become crucial, so either arms and weapons should be put down or head toward disaster. Adding to that, he called — in a statement to the Russian agency, Sputnik — on all parties to put aside their weapons.

On January 25, 2021, the political activist, Tawakkol Karman, called for an end to the war in Yemen and to mobilize international pressure, led by the UN, on the warlords and their leaders, in the Saudi Emirati Coalition and the Houthi coup militias in Sana’a.

Religious calls to stop the war:

On November 9, 2021, the International Union of Muslim Scholars called for action to stop the war in Yemen and find a solution that would achieve dignity and stability for Yemenis. In the words of its Secretary-General, Sheikh Ali Qara Daghi, the union appealed to “the Arab and Islamic world, and even the free world, and the living conscience as a whole, to stand with the Yemeni people in their ordeal until they get out of it, in a manner that preserves their dignity, unity and pride and to support them politically, economically, socially”. He urged the UN, Islamic and Arab countries to work to stop the crimes that are taking place, “which amount to war crimes against humanity”.

Moreover, in February 2019, Pope Francis, of the Catholic Church, had previously called for an end to the war in Yemen and the establishment of peace in it only hours before he visited the United Arab Emirates, saying, “The cries of children and parents in Yemen rise to God.”


These international, regional and local calls come in light of several contexts:

    • The local context: Represented by the balance of power, which made the conflict go in a vicious circle without resolving it amongst the parties, with the multipolarity and fragmentation of the fronts and the decline in the possibility of a settlement on all sides, especially between the legitimate government and the Houthi group. In addition, the Southern Transitional Council was unable, within four years, to complete the extension of its influence over the eastern and southern governorates and to declare secession as it had adopted in its statements. This is in addition to the collapse of the country’s economy, which may herald a revolution of the hungry here and there, that can get out of control in a country where weapons are easily available.
    • The regional context: Represented by the anxious security situation that the two countries of the Arab coalition are now dealing with, as a result of the attacks carried out by the Houthi group inside their territories, on vital and strategic sites, through drones and ballistic missiles, in light of the withdrawal of the air defense system and the U.S. retreat from its security commitments toward Gulf countries. This is in addition to the internal conditions of the Iranian regime as a result of the continuation of the popular protests, which are now weakening the stability of the regime, and granting Saudi Arabia a margin of negotiation with the Houthi group in favor of severing its relations with Tehran in exchange for providing support and backing to it, as an alternative to Tehran.
  • The international context:
    Represented in the repercussions of international crises at the level of the Russian-Ukrainian war, at the level of Chinese-American tensions and the resulting threats and challenges to international security, energy and global trade routes. The continuation of the conflict in Yemen and the threat to the waterways will make it difficult for the transportation of oil tankers, merchant ships and warships, which led the west to impose the CTF-150 Combined Naval Duty Force, which was established in 2002, as one of the four duty forces operating under the Command of the Combined Maritime Forces CMF, in the US 5th Fleet in Bahrain, where its tasks are to carry out maritime security operations in large areas, estimated to be about 200 million square meters, including the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Oman, the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, to fight terrorism, and ensuring international freedom of navigation and the safe and secure flow of international trade.


The outcome of these calls and demands was as follows:

  1. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are competing to strengthen their influence in the southern governorates, impose forces loyal to them, confer legitimacy on them, through several stages and strive to eliminate any force that opposes their influence, at the political, military and social levels.
  2. Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, made a unilateral announcement about an initiative calling for a comprehensive ceasefire in Yemen, under the supervision of the UN, and confirming an immediate implementation upon the Houthis’ approval of the initiative, on March 22, 2021. While the internationally recognized Yemeni government confirmed its support for the initiative, the Houthi group declined the initiative, as it did not bring anything new.
  3. The announcement of a temporary truce, which took place between the Yemeni government and the Houthi group, for a period of two months, on April 2, 2022, under the auspices of the UN. The armistice included “stopping all offensive military operations, on land, air and sea, inside and outside Yemen, and freezing current military positions on the ground.” It was extended twice for two months each.
  4. Removing Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi from the presidency and forming a presidential leadership council, under Saudi and Emirati pressure, with a constitutional declaration stipulating that President Hadi delegate all his powers, and those of his deputies, to a presidential leadership council that includes leaders who lead armed militias that were formed outside the law and state institutions. The declaration stipulated, in Article 7, on a comprehensive political solution, that the Presidential Leadership Council shall negotiate with Ansar Allah, a.k.a. the Houthis, for a permanent ceasefire in all parts of the Republic and join the negotiating table to reach a final and comprehensive political solution, including a transitional phase that moves Yemen from a state of war to a state of peace.
  5. Conducting rounds of negotiations between Saudi Arabia and the Houthi group, at the same time as accelerated regional and international discussions, where an Omani delegation visited Sana’a, during the months of December 2022 and January 2023, as a mediator between the coalition countries, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and the Houthi group, to put the final touches on the agreement. Had it not been for the intransigence of the Houthis, as indicated by the UN envoy, the agreement would have taken place between Saudi Arabia and the Houthi group. The U.S. envoy to Yemen said, in an opening speech at a special conference on Yemen, on January 9, 2023, that the U.S. is working with Oman and engaging with Saudi Arabia to end the war, warning that the reality is “very complex”, and pointing out that the Houthis’ demands were what led to the exacerbation of the conflict and the failure of the armistice efforts.

Saudi-Houthi negotiations to end the war:

On November 6, 2019, a Saudi official announced the existence of an “open channel” with the Houthi group, since 2016, to support the establishment of peace in Yemen and assured journalists that his country will not close its doors to the Houthis. This was the first Saudi confirmation of the existence of contacts and talks with the Houthi group since the start of the war. The next day, November 7, 2019, a source close to the Houthi group confirmed that unannounced talks had been held between the group and Saudi Arabia to end the war in Yemen. The German News Agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur quoted the source, saying: “There are secret talks taking place between the Houthis and high-ranking Saudi officials, in the Omani capital Muscat, through intermediaries”. He explained that the U.S., UN envoy (to Yemen) Martin Griffiths, the Red Cross and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan are among the mediators. He also noted that several files were developed during the talks to reach a final solution to the Yemeni crisis.

These discussions continued up to the present time, and several sources had mentioned that Saudi Arabia and the Houthi group had reached a joint agreement, to stop the war, on many points, and that the discussions taking place in both Sana’a and Muscat, with Omani mediation, paid off with the presence of international pressure on the two parties to move the negotiations forward. The Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, revealed progress toward ending the war in Yemen, during his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, on January 19, 2023.

A report issued by the International Crisis Group said, “Ending the war in Yemen often depends on the Houthi-Saudi talks, which were facilitated by Oman”, adding, “Saudi Arabia must ensure that any agreement with the Houthis will lead to a redirection of negotiations toward the UN, stressing that the UN and foreign powers must push the Saudis and Houthis to find common ground as they prepare for multilateral talks and clarify that a Houthi-Saudi agreement, by itself, does not bring peace to the country.

Despite the meetings, mutual visits and discussions, they failed, according to various sources, due to the Houthi group’s intransigence in its demands and adherence to its agendas. This brought the efforts of the UN envoy and the American envoy back to the fore.

Discussions about Saudi-Houthi talks came in light of the security tension in the region, following an American and European warning, even from the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, that Iran might reach the level of 90% of enriched uranium within a few weeks, which means the possibility of producing an atomic bomb.

The Israeli army had conducted a joint air exercise, with the U.S. Army, to simulate attacks on Iran and its proxies, in November 2022. For his part, the former head of the Israeli Mossad intelligence service, Zohar Balti, warned that Iran is days to weeks away from obtaining a nuclear bomb and that his country should prepare for an “imminent” attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, in an interview published by the Times of Israel newspaper on December 25, 2022.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had set three goals for his government, including preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, the Israeli Ministry of Defense requested in early January to raise its budget in preparation for the possibility of striking Iran. The Israeli army chief of staff, Aviv Kochavi, said that his forces have improved their readiness to strike Iranian nuclear targets, stressing that the level of preparation for an operation against Iran has improved significantly.

Last January, the Israeli website Walla stated that the Israeli Air Force had recently begun to purchase and maintain fighter jets and cargo planes from the U.S., pointing out that this matter is “part of the Israeli preparations announced on more than one occasion, to build an independent military option to strike the Iranian nuclear program”.

In mid-January, the former Qatari Prime Minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim, warned, on Twitter, about a possible military action that could shake the Gulf region, accompanied by “dire economic, political and social consequences”. The region witnessed diplomatic movement, mutual security visits and exceptional summit meetings as the leaders of the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Jordan, and Egypt met in Abu Dhabi, in a meeting called “Stability and Prosperity in the Region”, in which Saudi Arabia and Kuwait did not participate.

In early January 2023, Israeli media reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will visit the UAE within days of his first visit abroad after his government officially assumes its duties. The Israeli Channel 14 said that Netanyahu will head to the UAE, leading a delegation that includes the new head of the National Security Council, Tzachi Hanegbi, and several ministers, adding that the talks with UAE officials will focus on strengthening bilateral relations and the Iranian file.

The threat to strike Iran comes in light of the ongoing demonstrations and protests in Iranian cities calling for the regime’s overthrow, as Tehran is under escalating internal pressure, especially in light of the economic deterioration. In addition, there is Western discontent with the Iranian regime for supporting Russia in its war against Ukraine and providing it with drones and military equipment.

These facts push Saudi Arabia to try to buy the loyalty of the Houthi group, cut off its ties with Iran and convince them of the feasibility of engaging with them in shaping the Yemeni scene with special agreements between the two parties. It also explains the insolence of the Houthi group in attacking Saudi Arabia militarily and in the media, its departure from internal affairs and the strengthening of its position in front of its opponents.

Washington conference in the face of the Coalition:

During the past period, the Arab Alliance sought to exclude all Yemeni forces and unilaterally shape the scene away from constitutional and legal institutions, adhering to the cover of legitimacy that it used to pass its agendas and impose its political and military orientations.

The Yemeni scene, during the war period, remained dominated by two parties: the Houthi group, which took the lead in resisting what it described as Saudi aggression, and the Coalition, which took the lead in resisting what it described as Iranian aggression and controlled all Yemeni parties. Today, an agreement is being reached between the two parties to the conflict, regardless of any role of the Yemeni political and social forces that were deprived of making decisions, in light of the dependence on the Presidential Leadership Council and the Yemeni government on the will of the Coalition.

While Saudi Arabia is racing against time to achieve an agreement with the Houthi group, out of sight of the Yemeni parties, and with Omani mediation, to end the war and ensure the safety of its lands, an international conference on Yemen was held in Washington, in which the participants discussed ways to end the war that has been going on for eight years, establishing lasting peace and democracy, achieving transitional justice and rebuilding Yemen.

This approach prompted several Yemeni elites to move toward presenting a vision different from what the coalition wants to pass on to the Yemenis, without referring to them and without being appropriate to their aspirations and demands.

The Washington conference came to seize the opportunity of the U.S. administration’s insistence on making 2023 the year to stop the war in Yemen. This was expressed by the U.S. envoy to Yemen, Tim Linderking, at the opening of the conference, that his country is “committed” to finding a solution to the crisis, despite the lack of clarity in the perceptions of reaching peace, and that it believes that the year 2023 will provide an opportunity to end the conflict once and for all.

In her speech at the conference, Tawakkol Karman expressed the need to stop the “ugly war”, stressing, “We are here today to define the conditions for ending this war”, and that the war will not end in Yemen with deals between war leaders. She added, “It is important for the war to end with guarantees for the restoration of the republic and its sovereignty, and the rejection of any peace agreement that harms the unity of Yemen, with the necessity of establishing a democratic system.” Karman said, “The continuation of the existing method of dealing with the Yemeni file by the international community and the UN makes peace impossible”, noting that the international community’s efforts led to a clear desire to leave Yemen to the Houthi militia on the one hand and the Coalition on the other, and the result is that the great powers and western governments have — secretly or overtly — supported the continuation of the Coalition war against Yemen and its occupation, and this is unacceptable.

For his part, Deputy Speaker of the Parliament, Abdulaziz Jabari, said: “Saudi Arabia did not cut off Iran, but rather destroyed Yemen’s capabilities and tore it apart.” He stated that Yemen is being fragmented, and armed groups are being formed that implement the directives of the Coalition countries that do not follow the national army. The former Minister of Transport, Saleh al-Jabwani, said: “The Saudi-Emirati Arab Coalition became a party to the conflict after it supported the Yemeni legitimacy and is no longer concerned with the Houthi group since the armistice was signed with it, in April 2022.”

It is most likely that the war between the Houthi group, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates has ended, and the current mission of the coalition is to share areas of influence in southern Yemen to take care of the northern proxies to keep the Houthis busy and to limit their control over the northern regions, keeping the Yemeni file open to all possibilities and to reshape Yemen with their goals of dividing and sharing the country.

As for the former Foreign Minister, Khaled Al-Yamani, he said: “The political, social and humanitarian scene, with the beginning of the 9th year of the war, constitutes a continuation of the state of free fall into a deep abyss, criticizing the formation of the Presidential Leadership Council, its performance and its management of various files.” The closing statement of the Washington conference indicated that the conference was the result of the extension of the horrific war as it enters its ninth year, the end of the region’s and the international community’s role in resolving the crisis and the failure of the Houthis to renew the armistice and hinting at the option of war and the deviation of the role of the Arab Alliance from its main mission.

In the closing statement, the participants stressed that reaching peace requires fulfillment by the local and regional parties involved in this war, led by the Arab Coalition and the international community, with commitments to Yemeni unity, the republican system, sovereignty and the project of a federal, civil and democratic state.

They also stressed the necessity of withdrawing the militia’s weapons, placing all forces under the Ministries of Defense and the Interior, saying that the state alone has the right to own weapons and that any future political settlement be based on what was agreed upon in the outcomes of the comprehensive national dialogue, which produced the draft constitution of the federal state before it was undermined by coup and war, in addition to the existence of a clear path to transitional justice, as one of the ways to eliminate the causes of war.

The final statement also stressed the need to lift all types of blockade on Yemen, both internally, between cities, imposed by the militias, and externally, imposed by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, including lifting the ban on the export of gas and oil derivatives and the exit of all foreign forces from Yemen and the handing over of foreign ports, islands and military bases to the Yemenis.

Possible scenarios

In light of the continuous efforts to close the Yemeni file by UN agencies and international parties, after eight years of war that have weakened the Yemeni state and caused economic collapse and social disintegration, and with the presence of Saudi-Houthi talks and discussions by the UN envoy and the U.S. envoy, the path to ending the war in Yemen is heading toward several scenarios:

Scenario 1: Ending the war according to the vision of the Coalition:

So that the Arab coalition, led by Saudi Arabia, can reach an agreement with the Houthi group, through Omani mediation, that gives it the lead in achieving its agendas and goals, while making concessions to the Houthi group, in return for commitments made by the Houthis to Saudi Arabia, as Riyadh will ensure that the agreement is passed through the PLC.

Scenario 2: Ending the war according to the vision of the UN and international efforts:

This is if the efforts of the UN and U.S. envoys succeed in convincing the Yemeni parties to accept an agreement that ends the war between the conflicting parties, according to an international vision (American, in fact), taking into account the interests of other powers and reassuring the concerns of the countries of the region, if the Security Council imposed a cessation of war and forced the parties to reach an agreement and transition to a political process involving all parties.

Scenario 3: Ending the war according to a Yemeni vision:

This is in one of two cases:

The first case is that the conflicting Yemeni parties can achieve mutual understanding, leading to an agreement that ends the war and establishes a consensual political process and transitional phase. It is very unlikely in light of the intransigence shown by several parties regarding their demands and agendas.

The second case is to impose a new variable that eliminates the coup in Sana’a, through a decisive military option, to cut off any justification for the continuation of the war and that this be with a national vision and independent of any dictates. Although it is a possible assumption, it is far-fetched, given the complexity of the scene and the load of rivalries between the Yemeni parties opposed to the Houthi coup.

Possible determinants: 

Political and military factors affect the weighting between these scenarios and an explanation of which path things can take to stop the war in Yemen. It can be summarized as follows:

– The ability of the Arab Coalition, led by Saudi Arabia, to pass an agreement with the Houthi group on ending the war, without objection from the Yemeni parties or the international community. As an agreement with the Houthi group does not guarantee the restoration of the state, the unity of the country and the return of the republic, it will be a source of discontent from the political and social forces and may cause a rift in the relationship of some parties with the Coalition, especially since it has broken all the promises it made to the Yemeni parties.

– The ability of the Yemenis to bypass the regional and international parties to impose an agreement to end the war or to engage in inter-political talks and negotiations to reach an agreement. This is weakened by the number of differences and hostilities that exist between the Yemeni parties, where a number of them are functionally linked to regional or international forces, the absence of many political parties from the scene in favor of the armed forces, their failure to present any initiatives to solve the crisis and their failure to denounce the ongoing regional and international efforts to stop the war away from any national agendas and interests.

– Stopping military support for the conflicting powers, whether from Iran or the countries of the Arab Collation Saudi Arabia and the UAE; this means curtailing and weakening the ability of these parties to enter a new conflict. This is what ships operating in the field of surveillance in the Gulf of Aden, the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean and the internal crossing points on the part of the Omani authority began to do, as they monitored and detected convoys of weapons smuggled to the Houthi group.

Likely scenario:

The opportunity to end the war, according to a local vision and a Yemeni-Yemeni consensus, is not possible. In addition, most of the influential forces in the conflict are linked to the regional countries (Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and Iran), which support and finance and rely on them to achieve their agendas and goals, as this makes these regional countries the most influential to end the war or the continuation of it, especially the two countries of the Coalition (Saudi Arabia and the UAE) being backed by major powers. Accordingly, the likely scenario is that ending the war depends on the Coalition, as the two countries have tightened their influence over the Yemeni scene politically, militarily, securely, and economically, destroying any elements of the Yemeni state. In addition to the international circumstances that allowed them (Saudi Arabia and the UAE) to impose their agendas in the region through their economic influence at the global level and their influence on energy markets, at a critical period that western countries are facing in light of the Russian war against Ukraine, the UN envoy and the American envoy were not fully present during the talks that took place between Saudi Arabia and the Houthi group.

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