JERUSALEM (Sep. 13)
Israel defied Egypt today, asserting that it fully intended to use the Strait of Tiran leading to the Gulf of Akaba on which the southern Israel port of Elath is located.
In a statement by the Foreign Ministry, which was communicated to every maritime power represented by a diplomatic envoy in Israel, Israel replied to an Egyptian move yesterday which would limit shipping through the narrow water way to vessels which apply for permission to pass 72 hours in advance. Israel said it was determined to exercise, and to protect the exercise of, its right of free passage through this international channel at whatever time and by whatever method it saw fit.
The statement somberly noted that the issuance of the Egyptian regulations arrogating to Egypt the right of controlling traffic through the strait came only a few days after Egypt had accepted the appeal of the United Nations truce supervisor, Maj. Gen. E.L.M. Burns, for a cease-fire along the Gaza border. This move calls into serious question the sincerity of Egypt’s intentions to alleviate tension and to revert to strict observance of the armistice agreement, the Foreign Ministry underscored.
The statement pointed out that the new Egyptian regulations, issued by the Egyptian Ministry of War, are a “new and serious infringement of the rights of all countries to free and unhindered passage through an international channel. Acquiescence in them will aggravate the danger of incidents prejudicial to the peace and security of the area.
CONSIDERS EGYPTIAN ORDER A VIOLATION OF ARMISTICE AGREEMENT
“Insofar as the object of the regulations is to prevent access of merchant vessels to Elath they are in violation of Egypt’s obligations under the armistice agreement, the United Nations Charter, various resolutions of the Security Council, particularly that of September 1, 1951, and the general principles of international law governing the freedom of the seas and passage through straits,” the statement continued.
“Furthermore they are incompatible with the most explicit undertakings given by the Egyptian Government on January 28, 1950 in reply to inquiries made by the United States Government after Egypt’s occupation of the islands of Tiran and Sanafir. On that occasion, the Egyptian Government stated:
“‘This occupation is not intended to prejudice in any manner innocent passage across the waters separating these two islands from the Egyptian coast of Sinai. It goes without saying that this passage, the only practicable one, is to remain free as in the past in conformity with practice and recognized principles of the law of nations.’”
The Israel statement then noted that despite these undertakings and Security Council resolutions the Egyptian Government had several times illegally molested shipping through the strait and had recently holed the British freighter Anshun in an attempt to prevent its passage to the Gulf of Akaba. The new regulations, the Foreign Ministry declared, are a “blatant attempt” by Egypt to arrogate to it self rights to which it has no claim under international law and which Israel will not recognize.
Meanwhile, it was reported from London that Britain will make a formal protest to Egypt over the latter’s new regulations demanding that vessels of all nations apply for permission 72 hours in advance to pass through the Strait of Tiran to the Gulf of Akaba.