Israel Makes Strong Plea at U.N. Security Council; Wants Action on Egyptian Blockade

The United Nations Security Council debate on Israel’s complaint against Egypt’s blockade of the Suez Canal opened today with a strong plea by Israel delegate Abba Eban for a speedy and positive Council action ordering a stop to the ban as an “aggressive” act against Israel.

Ambassador Eban assailed the contention lately being made by Egypt that Cairo was exercising belligerent rights in a situation where a “state of war” existed. Pointing out in the first instance that Egypt was pledged under the Suez Canal Convention of 1888 to keep the waterway “always free and open,” he went on to concentrate his attack on the action that a state of war existed between Egypt and Israel.

The Israel diplomat emphasized the unanimous interpretation of all U.N. officials concerned in them that the armistice agreements stopping belligerency between the two states amounted to a form of non-aggression pact, and declared that the war contention constituted “flagrant contradiction” of Egypt’s obligations under the U.N. Charter, the armistice agreement and the Suez Canal Convention. He stressed, additionally, that the making of such an assertion by Egypt in itself represented a threat to the peace in the Middle East.

Quoting from Egyptian authorities themselves, including the late Prime Minister Nokrashy Pasha, that the Canal was an international waterway open to all states in peace or war, Mr. Eban made the point that Egypt’s blockade rested on three “unfounded premises,” namely: that neither Egypt nor the U.N. has ever recognized a formal state of war; that even if there had been, the Canal convention precluded Egypt from imposing such restrictions on Canal traffic; and thirdly, that no hostile act whatever is permitted Egypt by the armistice agreement.

U.N. DECISION DEPENDS ON AMERICA’S STAND ON THE ISSUE

In his 14-page address, Mr. Eban also laid bare the significance of the Egyptian ban on Israeli-bound goods through the Canal to world maritime interests. He reviewed for the Council the countless protests that had been made to Cairo by the maritime powers, including Britain and the United States, because of the interference with the movement of international ship traffic.

At the same time, he laid stress on the economic consequences of the blockade. He pointed out that the halting of oil tankers bound for Israel had greatly reduced the operations of the Haifa refinery, and he declared that there should be no right to jeopardize the security and well-being of a whole area of the globe. The Egyptian blockade, he said, basically interfered with the economic interests and prosperity of all peoples who depended on free trade communications. He concluded by calling on the Council to see to it that Egypt’s “illegal” action was halted.

As the Council went through its opening session on the complaint, it was known that the United States intended to hear general Council discussion, and especially the Egyptian rebuttals to the Israeli claims, before taking any stand on the issue. Informed sources said that most other Council members tended toward a position of waiting to see how the American attitude would shape up. Britain, meanwhile, it was understood, had inclined toward a willingness to accept a compromise of its own draft resolution which was reported to have been strongly condemnatory of Egypt in its original form. That draft has not yet been made public.

Replying to Israel’s complaint of his nation’s blockade of Israel’s goods at the Suez Canal, Egypt’s United Nations delegate Mahmoud Fawzi Bey told the Security Council that objection to the Egyptian ban was “entirely unjust by either international law or international practice.” Claiming the “right of self-preservation,” Fawzi Bey promised his government’s cooperation” in endeavoring to find a just and real solution” of the Canal dispute.

The Egyptian delegate termed his first speech to the Council a preliminary one and, limited himself to a number of legal technicalities involved in the case. He quoted profusely from international legal authorities, including Oppenheim, to establish the Egyptian contention that armistice agreements stop hostilities but do not end a legal state of war, and he claimed that Egypt was exercising belligerent rights in closing the Canal to traffic in Israel goods.

At the request of U.S. delegate Warren Austin the next Council session was delayed until next Wednesday, when Mr. Austin takes over the presidency of the Council from Sir Gladwyn Jebb, under the monthly rotation system.

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