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Israel-syrian Water Dispute is U. N. Affair, Johnston Says

Ambassador Eric Johnston today made it clear that, while interested in the general development of the Jordan River waters for the benefit of Israel and the Arab countries, he is taking no stand on the Israel-Syrian dispute over the diversion of the Jordan waters at the Bnot Yaacov bridge. The dispute is now being handled by the United Nations.

“Many articles,” Ambassador Johnston said in a statement,” have appeared in newspapers and magazines, both here and abroad, reflecting the fine public interest in these developments. Some of things being said, however, are highly speculative. For example, I have just seen where I have been quoted as agreeing that the waters of the Jordan River must be used only within the Jordan basin—which happens to be incorrect.

“While I cannot comment on all these speculations, of course, I would like to say that I made it clear to both Arab and Israel negotiators that the Bnot Yaacov question is receiving United Nations consideration and is entirely outside my competence. I have made no statement concerning it except to explain just that.”

Asked what he is now doing to move forward with his proposals for Jordan Valley development, Mr. Johnston stated: “At present our activity is largely in the technical field. Our engineers are making new analyses of the engineering information on hand, and are collecting new data for use when negotiations are renewed.” He said no definite time has been set for his return to the Near East, but made known he expects to return within a few months.

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