In 1974, a coup d'etat by Greek Army officers stationed on the Mediterranian island of Cyprus, tried to overthrow the then-President Makarios. This action led to the subsequent Turkish military invasion (under the provisions of the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee) [1]. The Treaty of Guarantee provided that Greece, Turkey and United Kingdom would ensure the independence and sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus. Turkey announced that the invasion was a "peace-keeping operation" to restore the constitutional order disrupted when a Greek military coup overthrew the Cyprus government. Turkey claimed she was acting in compliance with the terms of the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee. Upon these conditions, Turkey invaded Cyprus in two waves on 20 July and 14 August and continues to remain as a forceful presence (Turkish Cypriots regard them as a protection force) on the island in violation of the UN Charter and repeated UN Security Council Resolutions.

Events leading up to the Turkish invasion

Cyprus has played a major part in the history of the Aegean. The island's prehistory runs as far back as the beginning of the 6th millennium BC. After the Hittites and Egyptians, heirs of Alexander the Great in the 2nd millennium BC the Achaean established city-kingdoms on the Mycenaean model and introduced the Ancient Greek language, the paganistic Greek religion.

The character of the island has gone through various changes impacting on its culture, cuisine and music, due to the many conquerors it has known - Hellenes, Romans, Venetians, Ottomans and the British.

In 1571 the island was conquered by the Ottomans. The Cyprus under the Ottoman conquest lasted until 1878, when the Sultan leased Cyprus to Britain. Cyprus was then subsequently annexed by Britain when the Ottoman Empire entered into the World War I on the side of Germany; subsequently the island became a British Crown colony and came under British rule. The 1923 Treaty of Lausanne sealed the end of any notion of a legitimate Turkish claim to the overwhelmingly Greek populated island. Article 21 of the treaty gave the minority Muslims on the island the choice of leaving the island completely and living as Turks in Turkey, or staying there as British nationals.

EOKA Slogans (Yes we were born and we will die as Greeks)

The objective of EOKA [2] was to drive the British out of the island first and then integrate the island to Greece. As a nationalist organizations, some members of EOKA murdered Turkish Cypriots. EOKA initiated its activities by planting the first bombs on 1 April 1951 with the directive by Greek Foreign Minister Stefanopoulos.

The first secret talks for EOKA as a nationalist organization established to integrate the island to Greece, were started in the chairmanship of Makarios in Athens on 2 July 1952. In the aftermath of these meetings, a "Council of Revolution" was established on 7 March 1953. In early 1954, secret weaponry shipment to Cyprus started to the knowledge of the Greek government. Grivas covertly disembarked on the island on 9 November 1954. EOKA's campaign of terrorism [3] was properly under way.

Assaults on Turks began on 21 June 1955.

When it was becoming apparent that Cyprus was to be freed of the British yoke like other Crown Colonies, Turkey reneged on the treaties which bound it and began a campaign of state sponsored terrorism against the majority of Cypriots both Christians and Muslims that wanted independence and democracy. This was synchronised with a Turkish government orchestrated campaign to exterminate the indigenous Greeks of Asia-Minor and Istanbul. In November 1957 the TMT Terrorist Organisation was formed by Rauf Denktash, and was funded and trained by Turkey.

A year later, EOKA revived its attacks. In reply the TMT declared war on the Greek Cypriots as well. However, the TMT did not target only Greeks but also some Turkish Cypriots workers who were in favour of peace and independence of the island. After a joint mass demonstration by Greek and Turkish Cypriots, the TMT began murdering Turkish trade union members. In the same manner, left-wing Greek workers were murdered by the Greek Cypriots chauvinists. In order to carry through the policies of imperialism, it was necessary to smash the will of the working class whose attitude in favour of fraternity, peace and independence was an obstacle.

On 12 June 1958 eight innocent unarmed Greek Cypriot civilians from Kondemenos village were murdered by T.M.T. terrorists near the Turkish Cypriot populated village of Geunyeli in an totally unprovoked attack, after being dropped off there by the British authorities. After this the Turkish government ordered the TMT to blow up the offices of the Turkish press office in Nicosia in order to falsely put the blame of the Greek Cypriots and prevent independence negotiations from succeeding. It also began a string of assassinations and murders of prominent Turkish Cypriot supporters of independence.

In the following year, after the conclusion of the independence agreements on Cyprus, the Turkish Navy sent a ship to Cyprus fully loaded with arms for the TMT Terrorists which was caught red-handed in the infamous "Deniz" incident.

British rule lasted until 1960, when the island was declared an independent state, under the London-Zurich agreements creating a foundation for the Republic of Cyprus by the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot communities.

The reluctant Republic was seen as a necessary compromise between two communities.

The 1960 Constitution of the Cyprus Republic proved unworkable however, lasting only three years. The Greek Cypriots wanted to end the separate Turkish Cypriot municipal councils permitted by the British in 1958, but made subject to review under the 1960 agreements. For many Greek Cypriots these municipalities were the first stage on the way to the partition they feared. The Greek Cypriots following Hellenistic fanaticism wanted enosis, integration with Greece, while Turkish Cypriot following Turkish fanatism wanted taksim, partition between Greece and Turkey.

Resentment also rose within the Greek Cypriot community because Turkish Cypriots had been given a larger share of governmental posts than the size of their population warranted. The perceived disproportionate number of ministers and legislators assigned to the Turkish Cypriots meant that their representatives could veto budgets or legislation and prevent essential government operations from being carried out. Moreover, they complained that a Turkish Cypriot veto on the budget (in response to alleged failures to meet obligations to the Turkish Cypriots) made government immensely difficult. The Turkish Cypriots had also vetoed the amalgamation of Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot troops into the same units.

In December 1963, after the government was repeatedly forced into deadlock and all major legislation and the budget were repeatedly vetoed by the Turkish Cypriot legislators at the behest of Turkey, the President of the Republic Makarios proposed some constitutional amendments to facilitate the functioning of the state. The Greek Cypriots subsequently claimed that the Turkish Cypriot Governmental Ministers withdrew from the Cabinet and the Turkish public servants ceased attending their offices. Then the Akritas Plan followed. This was a plan designed to end the new Republic by quickly suppressing Turkish Cypriot reactions to `imposed' constitutional change before outside intervention could be mounted. The Turkish Cypriot community claimed that when they objected to the proposed amendments, they were forced out of their governmental offices by the Greek Cypriots, with the support of Greek forces.

Greek Cypriot accusations

Ever since then the Turkish Cypriot leadership, acting on instructions from the Turkish Government, has been the partitioning of Cyprus and eventual annexation by Turkey which is known as Taksim. Turkey's support for partition through the forced displacement of populations is revealed in the Galo Plaza report of 1965 and in its demands during negotiations with the British over Cyprus independence and the so called Acheson plan which would have divided Cyprus between Turkey and Greece. It is also revealed by the system of apartheid or racial segregation that formed the basis of the Annan Plan which the government of Cyprus claims was devised in order to meet all of Turkeys key demands.

Greek-Turkish relations had a long history of conflict and ethnic cleansing as the Greeks formerly under Ottoman rule fought for their indepoendence. As Greece expanded to reclaim Greek-populated territories fierce wars took place, with the last major conflict being the war in Minor Asia (West Turkey). After World War I a number of Greek-populated Aegean islands and part of Minor Asia (today Turkey's west coast) including the cities of Smirni-Izmir, Efessos-Izmir, came under Greek rule after intervention by the time's superpowers. However, the defeat of the Greek Army came by Kemal Atatürk's (founder of the modern Turkish state) forces in Minor Asia.

Turkish Cypriot accusations

The Turkish Cypriots stated that after their rejection of the constitutional ammendments in 1963, they were not only forced out (at gunpoint) of their positions in the government, but were also forced off their land (which at that time was about 31%) and pushed into scattered enclaves making up only 4%) which was then taken over by Greek Cypriots and Greek Settlers from Greece. Greek Cypriot forces - supported by the EOKA terrorist group and Greek military 'advisors' - further pushed this policy. Credence to these claims of ethnic cleansing can be seen by the 1964 Siege at Erenkoy.

In 2004, Greek Cypriot film maker Antonis Angastiniotis' historical documentary "Voice of Blood" also portrays the mass killing of Turkish Cypriots in the villages of Aloa, Maratha and Sandalari in 1974 [4] [5].

Invasion and occupation


Between 21 and 26 December 1963 the conflict centred in the Omorphita suburb of Nicosia, which had been an area of tension back in 1958. The participants now were Greek Cypriot irregulars and Turkish Cypriot paramilitaries, and numbers of civilians who were caught in the crossfire and chaos that ensued over the Christmas week. Both President Makarios and Dr Kucuk issued calls of peace, but they were ignored. Meanwhile, within a week of the violence flaring up, the Turkish army contingent had moved out of its barracks and seized the most strategic position on the island across the Nicosia to Kyrenia road, the historic jugular vein of the island. So crucial was this road to Turkish strategic thinking that they retained control of that road until 1974, at which time it acted as a crucial link in Turkey’s military invasion. From 1963 up to the point of the Turkish invasion of 20 July 1974, Greek Cypriots who wanted to use the road could only do so if accompanied by a UN convoy,. It was, however, a baffling strategy for protecting the Turkish Cypriot minority. Again, this demonstrated the true motivation of Turkey.

Thereafter Turkey once again put forward the idea of partition. The intensified attacks on the Turkish speaking population, which led to 24 Turks being killed, together with their claims that there had been a violation of the constitution, were used as ground for intervention. And quoting past treaties, Turkey hinted at a possible intervention on the island. US president Johnson stated, in his famous letter of June 5, 1964, that the US was against a possible intervention on the island, warning Turkey in a “bitter tone”. One month later, within the framework of a plan prepared by the US Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Dean Acheson, negotiations with Greece and Turkey began.

Now a secretive organisation and going by the name of EOKA-B, in the Sampson coup on 15 July 1974, EOKA members this time pointed their weapons to their own community, killing 2,000 Greek cypriots who were Makarios supporters. These dead and missing were later to be added on to the casualties of Turkish invasion, so as to be used for Greek propaganda.

The Turkish invasions of Cyprus of July and August 1974

In the spring of 1974, Cypriot intelligence discovered that EOKA B was planning a coup against President Makarios [6] which was sponsored by the fascist military junta of Athens.

The junta had came to power in a military coup in 1967 which was condemned by the whole of Europe but had the support of the US. In the autumn of 1973 after the 17 November student uprising there had been a further coup in Athens in which the original Greek junta had been replaced by one still more obscurantist headed by the Chief of Military Police, Brigadier Ioannides, though the actual head of state was General Phaedon Gizikis.

Alleged secret documents which were declassified during the trial of former NATO advisor Athanasios Strigas reveal that in May 1974 Henry Kissinger sent a secret telegram giving orders for Makarios to be deposed, because Cyprus' policy of non-alignment was considered unsatisfactory by US policy makers who saw Makarios as favouring the Soviet Union. Kissinger described the plot as the, "final cure of the national security council". In June of 1974 Kissinger sent a further secret telegram which put the plan into action.

On 2 July 1974 Makarios wrote an open letter to President Gizikis complaining bluntly that 'cadres of the Greek military regime support and direct the activities of the 'EOKA B' terrorist organization'. The Greek Government's immediate reply was to order the go-ahead to the conspiracy. On 15 July 1974 sections of the National Guard, led by its Greek officers, overthrew the Government.

Makarios narrowly escaped death in the attack. He fled the presidential palace by catching a taxi after escorting a party of school children out of the building and went to Pafos, where the British managed to retrieve him and flew him out of the country in an RAF jet fighter.

In the meantime, the EOKA B member Nikos Sampson was declared provisional president of the new government after Glafcos Clerides who was the coupists original candidate declined the offer at the last moment.

A top secret letter allegedly signed and sent by Joseph Luns the Secretary General of NATO in July 1974 indicates that America was directly responsible for the coup by EOKA B and for allowing the subsequent Turkish invasion to take place. In it he states; "The Assistant Undersecretary of state Sisco's visit to the Alliance, showed the decision of the American government to finish the Cyprus problem. We agreed with Mr Sisco for supporting the Turkish army during the landing, as well as, in the violent expulsion of Makarios."

Turkey invaded Cyprus on July 20, 1974 after unsuccessfully trying to get support from one of the other guarantor forces - Britan. Heavily armed troops landed shortly before dawn at Kyrenia (Girne) on the northern coast. Ankara claimed that it was invoking its right under the Treaty of Guarantee to protect the Turkish Cypriots and guarantee the independence of Cyprus – a claim which is still being contested by Greeks and Greek Cypriots. The operation, codenamed 'Operation Atilla', is known in the north as 'the 1974 Peace Operation'.

The invading forces landed off the northern coast of the island around Kyrenia. By the time a cease fire was agreed three days later, Turkish troops held 3% of the territory of Cyprus. Five thousand Greek Cypriots had fled their homes.

Democracy was restored in Cyprus eight days after the coup against Makarios. By the time the UN Security Council was able to obtain a cease-fire on the 22 July the Turkish forces had only secured a narrow corridor between Kyrenia and Nicosia, which they succeeded in widening during the next few days in violation of the cease-fire.

At a conference on 14 August 1974, Turkey demanded from the Cypriot government to accept its plan for a federal state, and population transfer, with 34% of the territory under Turkish Cypriot control. When the Cypriot acting president Clerides asked for 36 to 48 hours in order to consult with Athens and with Greek Cypriot leaders, the Turkish Foreign Minister denied Clerides that opportunity on the grounds that Makarios and others would use it to play for more time. An hour and a half after the conference broke up, the new Turkish attack began. Britain's then foreign secretary and soon to be prime minister James Callaghan, later disclosed that Kissinger "vetoed" at least one British military action to pre-empt the Turkish landing. Turkish troops rapidly occupied even more than was asked for at Geneva. Thirty-six-and a-half per cent of the land came under Turkish occupation reaching as far south as the Louroujina salient.

In the process about 200,000 Greek Cypriots who made up 82% of the population in the north became refugees; many of them forced out of their homes (violations of Human Rights by the Turkish army have been acknowledged by the European Court of Human Rights), the rest fleeing at the word of the approaching Turkish army.

The ceasefire line from 1974 today separates the two communities on the island, and is commonly referred to as the Green Line.

By 1975 on 20,000 Greek Cypriots remained in the north, enclaved in the Karpass peninsula.

Facing threats of a renewed Turkish offensive as well as threats to ethnically cleanse the enclaved Greek Cypriots the Cyprus government and the United Nations consented to the transfer of the remainder of the 51,000 Turkish Cypriots that had not left their homes in the south to settle in the north, if they wished to do so.

On 13 February 1975 Turkey declared the occupied areas of the Republic of Cyprus to be a "Federated Turkish State" to the universal condemnation of the international community (see UN Security Council Resolution 367(1975)).

Human rights violations

In 1976 and again in 1983 the European Commission of Human Rights found Turkey guilty of repeated violations of the European Convention of Human Rights.

The European Commission of Human Rights reports of 1976 and 1983 state the following:

"Having found violations of a number of Articles of the Convention, the Commission notes that the acts violating the Convention were exclusively directed against members of one of two communities in Cyprus, namely the Greek Cypriot community. It concludes by eleven votes to three that Turkey has thus failed to secure the rights and freedoms set forth in these Articles without discrimination on the grounds of ethnic origin, race, religion as required by Article 14 of the Convention."

The 20,000 Greek Cypriots who were enclaved in the occupied Karpass Peninsula in 1975 were subjected by the Turks to violations of their human rights so that by 2001 when the European Court of Human Rights found Turkey guilty of the violation of 14 articles of the European Convention of Human Rights in its judgment of Cyprus v. Turkey (application no. 25781/94) less than 600 still remained. In the same judgment Turkey was found guilty of violating the rights of the Turkish Cypriots by authorising the trial of civilians by a military court.

Since the Turkish invasion over 120,000 Turks have been brought to the north from Anatolia in violation of Article 49 of the Geneva Convention, to occupy the homes of the Greek Cypriot refugees.

Approximately 70,000 Turkish Cypriots have been forced to emigrate from the north due to economic hardships brought on by the international isolation of the Northern Cyprus.

Missing persons

Over one and a half thousand people went missing after the Turkish invasion. This tragic problem of a purely humanitarian nature remains unresolved to this day.

Greek Cypriot Military personnel and reservists, as well as civilians, including women and children, were captured by the invading Turkish armed forces, or disappeared, after the cessation of hostilities, in areas under the control of the Turkish army. Some were listed as prisoners of war by the International Red Cross. Television footage taken by a BBC crew in Turkish jails in Adana in September 1974 shows some persons who have later been identified by their own relatives as missing.

In 1981 the UN Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) was established.

On 5 October 1994, the US Senate unanimously adopted an Act for the ascertainment of the fate of five US citizens missing since the Turkish invasion. Following this, the US President appointed Ambassador Robert Dillon, who came to Cyprus to carry out investigations. Andreas Kasapis’ grave was discovered in January 1998 in the TRNC and his remains were sent to the US for DNA testing and identified, yet the Turkish side has still failed to provide reliable information as to the fate of another 1587 Greek Cypriots.

Facts and information on the death and the burial site of 201 out of 500 cases of Turkish Cypriot missing persons were provided by the Cyprus government on 12 May 2003.

On 6 December 2002, excavations at the village of Alaminos, led to the discovery of human remains, which according to existing testimonies, belonged to Turkish Cypriots who lost their lives during a fire exchange with a unit of the National Guard, on 20 July 1974.

Quoted Newspaper report: “In a Greek raid on a small Turkish village near Limassol, 36 people out of a population of 200 were killed. The Greeks said that they had been given orders to kill the inhabitants of the Turkish villages before the Turkish forces arrived.” - Washington Post, 23 July, 1974

Exhumations carried out by British experts in the TRNC village of Trahonas which was a burial site designated by the Turkish side in 1998 were completed on 11 January 2005 but failed to locate any remains belonging to Greek Cypriots listed as missing. After this failure the Cyprus government raised questions over the willingness of the Turkish side to resolve this humanitarian issue.

Destruction of cultural heritage

After Turkey's invasion of Cyprus all but 5 of the 500 Greek Orthodox Churches were looted, desecrated, or destroyed.

Panagia Kanakaria

Treasures from looted Cypriot churches appeared on the international black art market including the much publicised Kanakaria mosaics.

In 1989 the government of Cyprus took an American art dealer to court for the return of four rare 6th century Byzantine mosaics which that survived an edict by the Emperor of Byzantium, imposing the destruction of all images of sacred figures. Cyprus won the case and the mosaics were eventually returned. In October 1997 Aydin Dikmen who had sold the mosaics was finally arrested in Germany in a police raid and found to be in possession of a stash consisting of mosaics, frescoes and icons dating back to the 6th, 12th and 15th centuries worth over 50 million dollars. The mosaics, depicting Saints Thaddeus and Thomas, are two more sections from the apse of the Kanakaria Church, while the frescoes, including the Last Judgement and the Tree of Jesse, were taken off the north and south walls of the Monastery of Antiphonitis, built between the 12th and 15th centuries.

Turkish immigration

As a result of the Turkish invasion over 120,000 settlers were brought into Cyprus from mainland Turkey. This was despite Article 49 of the Geneva Convention stating that "The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies."

UN Resolution 1987/19 (1987) of the "Sub-Commission On Prevention Of Discrimination And Protection Of Minorities" which was adopted on 2 September 1987 demanded "the full restoration of all human rights to the whole population of Cyprus, including the freedom of movement, the freedom of settlement and the right to property" and also expressed "its concern also at the policy and practice of the implantation of settlers in the occupied territories of Cyprus which constitute a form of colonialism and attempt to change illegally the demographic structure of Cyprus".

Negotiations and other developments

Ongoing negotiations

Despite the demands by the United Nations Security Council for the immediate unconditional withdrawal of all foreign troops from Cyprus soil and the safe return of the refugees to their homes all attempts to reach a negotiated settlement have failed due to Turkish intransigence. (See UN Security Council resolutions 353(1974), 357(1974), 358(1974), 359(1974), 360(1974), 365(1974)]] endorsing General Assembly resolution 3212(XXIX)(1974), 367(1975), 541(1983), 550(1984).) Turkey defends its position, stating that any such withdrawal would had to a resumption of intercommunal fighting and killing.

See Cyprus Reunification Negotiations.

Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus declared "legally invalid"

In 1983 the subordinate local administration in the north declared independence under the name "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus". Immediately upon this declaration Britain convened a meeting of the United Nations Security Council to condemn the declaration as "legally invalid".

UN Security Council Resolution 541(1983) considered the "attempt to create the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is invalid, and will contribute to a worsening of the situation in Cyprus". It went on to state that it "Considers the declaration refereed to above as legally invalid and calls for its withdrawal".

Return of Varosha

In the following year UN resolution 550(1984) condemned the "exchange of Ambassadors" between Turkey and the TRNC and went on to add that the Security Council "Considers attempts to settle any part of Varosha by people other than its inhabitants as inadmissible and calls for the transfer of this area to the administration of the United Nations".

To this day neither Turkey nor the TRNC have complied with the above resolutions and Varosha remains deserted.



The Cyprus Conflict An exhaustive non-partisan website including a lot of details, reports, documents, and personal accounts on the Cyprus dispute

The Cyprus Problem Homepage, Detailed details, reports, and other documents concerning the Cyprus problem

Aspects of the Cyprus Problem from The Republic of Cyprus Press and Information Office

Humanitarian issues


Lobby for Cyprus, A non-party-political organisation with the aim of reunifying Cyprus

Action for Cyprus, Cypriot refugee organisation

Justice for Cyprus, Cypriot refugee organisation

The Occupied Villages

The Missing Cypriots

Return to Varosha, Famagusta, Cyprus

Association Of Turkish Cypriots Abroad, Voice of Turkish Cypriots Abroad


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The House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee report on Cyprus.

Letter by the President of the Republic, Mr Tassos Papadopoulos, to the U.N. Secretary-General, Mr Kofi Annan, dated 7 June, which circulated as an official document of the U.N. Security Council

Legal Issues arising from certain population transfers and displacements on the territory of the Republic of Cyprus in the period since 20 July 1974

Address to Cypriots by President Papadopoulos (FULL TEXT)

The Republic of Cyprus Press and Information Office, Aspects of the Cyprus Problem

1st Report of the European Commission of Human Rights; Turkey's invasion in Cyprus and aftermath (20 JULY 1974 - 18 MAY 1976)

2nd Report of the European Commission of Human Rights; Turkey's invasion in Cyprus and aftermath (19 May 1976 to 10 February 1983)

European Court of Human Rights Case of Cyprus v. Turkey (Application no. 25781/94)


Brendan O'Malley and Ian Craig, "The Cyprus Conspiracy" (London: IB Tauris, 1999)

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Christopher Hitchens, "The Trial of Henry Kissinger" (Verso, 2001)

Christopher Hitchens, "Cyprus" (Quartet, 1984)

Christopher Brewin, "European Union and Cyprus" (Huntingdon: Eothen Press, 2000)

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Dudley Barker, "Grivas, Portrait of a Terrorist" (New York Harcourt: Brace and Company 2005)

Farid Mirbagheri, "Cyprus and International Peacemaking" (London: Hurst, 1989)

James Ker-Lindsay, "EU Accession and UN Peacemaking in Cyprus" (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005)

Nancy Cranshaw, "The Cyprus Revolt: An Account of the Struggle for Union with Greece" (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1978)

Oliver Richmond, "Mediating in Cyprus" (London: Frank Cass, 1998)

The Lobby for Cyprus study group, Cyprus: Origins of the present crisis - 1950s to 1970s

Athanasios Strigas, "Kypros: Aporritos Fakelos"

Athanasios Strigas, "Diethneis Synomotes"

Christos P. Ioannides, "In Turkey's image: The transformation of occupied Cyprus into a Turkish province", (New Rochelle, NY: Caratzas, 1991)

Other sources

ITN documentary, Cyprus, Britain’s Grim Legacy

TV documentary, Antonis Angastiniotis, Voice of Blood

History of Cyprus

Prehistory | Ancient history | Middle Ages | Ottoman Empire | Modern History

Cyprus Encyclopedia

Ancient Greece

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