Eban Warns U.N. Security Council Against Encouraging Armaments Race in Middle East
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Eban Warns U.N. Security Council Against Encouraging Armaments Race in Middle East

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Israel’s representative to the U.N. today warned the Security Council against making a decision which would expose the entire Middle East to an unbridled armaments race.

Speaking before the Council on the recommendation by U.N. mediator Dr. Ralph J. Bunche that the functions of the mediator be terminated, Mr. Eban told the Council that an armaments race would not benefit the democratic institutions nor the economy of that region. However, if such a race takes place, he warned that “Israel will not allow itself to be overtaken.” He agreed with the acting mediator that the truce regime in Palestine has been replaced by the armistice agreements. He suggested, however, that the Council would do well to issue “a clear moral directive” against a Middle East armament competition. Mr. Eban also told the Council that the time has come for lifting all other artificial restrictions imposed upon legitimate commerce and shipping. “I have in mind the practice of seizing cargos of civilian commodities passing through Suez on their way to Israeli ports,” he added.

The Israeli representative called the attention of the Council to at least one provision in the armistice agreement with Transjordan which has not been implemented. He specifically referred to the fact that up to this date there is still no free traffic on the vital Latrun Jerusalem road, and the fact that no progress has been achieved in the resumption of normal operations of the Hebrew University and the Hadassah Medical Center on Mount Scopus. He blamed the Transjordanian intransigence for this condition.


Today’s Security Council session opened with a statement by French representative Jean Chauvel who said the Council faces a problem of terminating the truce. The French position, he said, is that the armistice agreements have replaced it, and that the implementation of the agreements should be left to the parties themselves and the mixed armistice commissions with a minimum of U.N. supervisory machinery. Mr. Chauvel disagreed with Dr. Bunche that difficulties arising under the agreement should be placed before the Conciliation Commission. The hands of the Commission, he said, should be left free in the pursuit of peace. He admitted, however, that the Council should continue to maintain its “vigilance” by retaining the Palestine case on its agenda.

In a brief statement before the Council, Dr. Bunche said there was no doubt that the armistice agreements had rendered “obsolete” a truce resolution with its “entire heritage of restrictions”. The mediator called for the elimination of restrictions on imports and immigration. He advocated free movement for legitimate shipping and the removal of any vestiges of the wartime blockade.

However, he warned that the Council could not at this time completely divest itself of its responsibility in Palestine and suggested that it reaffirm the ceasefire principle by which it would retain its authority in the Middle East. “I would consider it highly desirable that it should not prematurely detach itself completely from the situation,” he stated.

Dr. Bunche suggested that no more than 30 to 40 observers be retained to help the parties under the armistice agreement. These, he said, are proving “very effective.” He added that the recent news from Lausanne is encouraging him to believe that all of the outstanding obstacles to permanent peace, including the refugee problem, “can and will be overcome.”

Mr. Eban devoted much of his speech to arguing that direct negotiations between Jews and Arabs at Lausanne would greatly speed up the peace. But if the lengthier procedure followed at Lausanne prevails, then Israel can wait “as long as necessary,” he said. He paid tribute to Dr. Bunche who, he stated, brought about an end of the military phase of the Palestine problem “with tact, skill and tenacious idealism.”


In statements before the Security Council at today’s afternoon session, the representatives of the United States and the United Kingdom endorsed the lifting of the arms embargo for Israel and the Arab countries, but morally pledged their governments not to aid a so-called armaments race in the Middle East.

British delegate Sir Terrence Shone declared that with the fighting over and a new phase established for a peaceful Palestine by the armistice agreements all restrictions posed by the truce should be lifted, He indicated that the British Government was ready to resume a supply of arms to the Arabs in accordance with standing agreements, but added that this does not mean that shipment should be made in excess of requirements for internal security and national defense. His government, he said, does not favor the acquisition of arms in the Middle East in excess of these legitimate requirements.

U.S. delegate Warren Austin supported the British stand and urged all governments to exercise restraint in the shipments of arms in the Middle East in such quantities as would weaken the newly established armistice agreements. “An arms race would jeopardize the armistice and settlement,” he said. “The United States, insofar as we are concerned, does not intend to allow the exports of arms which would permit a competitive arms race in the area.”

Commenting on the embargo aspect of the problem, Dr. Bunche said he would not like to see an interruption of the peace in the Middle East by an armaments race. But in practice, he said, the enforcement of the embargo would entail a top-heavy U.N. observation apparatus. He asked, however, that arms exporting countries pledge themselves not to support a competitive arms situation. In any event, he said, if such a race ensued, it would not proceed without being brought to the attention of the Council.

Dr. Bunche accepted a Canadian amendment to his draft resolution terminating the truce in which the function of implementing the armistices would revert to the truce supervising organization instead of the Conciliation Commission.

Canada, the U.S., Britain, Cuba, China and Egypt joined France in support of Dr. Bunche’s recommendations. The Council then adjourned until Monday morning.

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