LONDON (Jul. 20)
The British Government does not consider the current Big Four talks at Geneva a suitable occasion for attempting the settlement of the Arab-Israel problem, Anthony Nutting, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, told the House of Commons today. He made his statement in the course of a concerted drive on the government’s position on the Arab-Israel situation by such Labor big guns as Emanuel Shinwell, Herbert Morrison and John Strachey, all members of the last Labor government.
Asked by Mr. Shinwell whether the government would attempt an Israel-Arab settlement at Geneva, Mr. Nutting declared: “No sir, The Foreign Secretary (Harold Macmillan) does not consider the Geneva talks offer a suitable occasion for dealing with this problem.” He added that there is quite “a lot” to occupy the conferees at Geneva without this situation.
Mr. Shinwell persisted, noting that this problem was suitable for consideration at a conference which is reviewing the global situation and in view of the fact that danger might develop in the Middle East. Was the government going to remain silent and “acquiesce in the present position now that diplomatic efforts at the Security Council have failed#” he asked. Should not other steps be taken#
SECRET DIPLOMATIC MOVES ON ARAB-ISRAEL SITUATION REPORTED
Mr. Nutting agreed that further measures should be taken and asserted that they were being taken. But, he insisted, it would not help to publicize these activities for fear that such publicity would prejudice the outcome of the diplomatic maneuvers. He called the Middle East situation explosive, adding that it blows “hot and cold from time to time” and that currently there has been a slight cooling off. At the talks on the Gaza frontier there is some promise of success, he stressed.
In a written reply to a request for a statement on the Gaza talks, Mr. Nutting declared that the “points to be settled have been reduced to a very limited number.” He noted that another meeting of the Israelis and Egyptians was scheduled on the Gaza border today, and paid tribute to the work of Gen. E.L.M. Burns, the United Nations truce chief, in these “difficult negotiations.”
Mr. Morrison, who was the last Labor Foreign Secretary, indirectly charged the government with following an anti-Israel policy. Amid cries of indignation from the Conservative benches, the Minister of State said “there is absolutely no justification” for such charges.
Returning to the fray, Mr. Shinwell said that the failure of diplomatic efforts to secure free passage of shipping through the Suez Canal and the Straits of Akaba was forcing the Israel Government to prepare for military action to protect its shipping. He asked what the British Government proposed to do about this situation.
Mr. Nutting said he was aware of certain election speeches by the Prime Minister and Defense Minister of Israel and counter-statements by Egyptian spokesmen, apparently occasioned by the Egyptian shelling of the British freighter Anshun in the Straits of Akaba. He said that the British Government deplored attempts to interfere with shipping and other rights and would continue to work for removal of the state of tension that gave rise to them, but he did not think the danger to peace was any greater now than in the past few months.