Hammarskjold Tells U. N. His Mission May Bring Arab-Israel Peace Talks
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Hammarskjold Tells U. N. His Mission May Bring Arab-Israel Peace Talks

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United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold, in a report submitted today to the Security Council, expressed the opinion that his Middle East peace mission, under Council mandate, "may open the door" to ultimate Arab-Israel peace talks.

During his month long tour of the capitals of the five countries concerned–Israel, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria–his real "target" was not only the elimination of immediate stresses but "general and full compliance with the armistice agreements in their entirety," the UN chief declared. "Full compliance" means transformation of the truce pacts into ultimate agreements for complete peace among all the countries who had signed the armistice instruments.

Mr. Hammarskjold told the Council that he had not urged Egypt, as requested by Israel, to implement a Security Council resolution ordering Cairo to keep the Suez Canal open to Israel shipping. On the other hand, the UN chief stated, he did not press Israel as requested by Syria, Lebanon and Jordan–to promise that it will not resume work on the Bnot Yaacov canal which would, according to the Arab contentions, divert waters from the Jordan River. On that point, however, Mr. Hammarskjold made a plea–obviously to Israel–against resumption of the Bnot Yaacov works at this time, on the grounds that such a project would add further to the "strain" in the area.

Expressing his belief that there is "a general will to peace and that this should be fostered and encouraged," Mr. Hammarskjold declared in his report: "I believe that the present situation offers unique possibilities. If we have previously experienced chain reactions leading to a continuous deterioration of the situation, we may now have the possibility of starting a chain of reactions in the opposite direction. The final statement," he cautioned, "is probably still for off. But even partial solutions of the harassing problems of the region would be a contribution to the welfare of the peoples concerned and to the peace of the world."

Mr. Hammarskjold made it clear that he considers the cease-fire agreements he had obtained, first between Egypt and Israel, then between Israel and the three other Arab armistice signatories, as more than mere palliatives calming a temporary flare-up. All through his lengthy report he spoke of his intention to get the Armistice Agreements back into full power. The cease-fire pacts, he said, were only one step in the direction of "full" armistice compliance.

There was a hint in the report that the present demarcation lines may have to be subjected to re-examination–a hint that could mean a demand upon Israel for some territorial concessions. The present demarcation lines, stated Mr. Hammarskjold, "had, in many cases, no basis in history or in the distribution of population or private property."

But the Secretary General made that remark only in passing. He discussed the ceasefire agreements in detail and insisted that their achievement "cannot be judged solely–or even primarily–in terms of immediate influence on the situation in the field." Those cease fire pledges, he declared, have brought the responsibility for border calmness back where it belongs–to the governments, rather than to field commanders, and the governments in turn will now be responsible directly to the Security Council for the maintenance of a peaceful atmosphere.


Expressing regret that, to date, no "diplomatic relations" existed between the Arab states and Israel, making it possible to handle complaints through ordinary diplomatic channels, Mr. Hammarskjold said he did not want to engage in "recapitulation of past failures." He looked forward, instead, "to a constructive forward look from the vantage point reached." That vantage point was not only the cease-fire agreements but also the various local arrangements, some of which had been begun and others of which he left to negotiations between the governments and Maj. Gen. E. L. M. Burns, chief of staff of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization.

The truce organization, he maintained, has now been strengthened. In the past, he pointed out, the governments insisted that truce supervision observers be responsible only to the various Mixed Armistice Commissions of which there are four, with Israel represented on each against similar representation by Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. Such procedure, he held, makes the MAC apparatus superior to its parent-body–the Truce Supervision Organization. It is for that reason that he negotiated agreements for greater freedom of movements by the UN observers responsible directly to the TSO under Gen. Burns himself.

Throughout the report, the Secretary General maintained an "even handed justice" by pointing up the failures of the Arab states to comply fully with the armistice agreements, as well as by upholding Arab contentions against Israel at various points. He declared that Egypt has refused to permit UN on-the-spot investigations in the EI Auja-Nitzana area where, according to an Israel charge, Cairo has maintained troops and armaments not allowed by previous agreements. On the other hand, Israel may also be "presumed" to have violated part of the armistice agreement in the area, he reported.

Both parties, he stressed in his report, had accepted, in principle, proposals for freedom of movement for UN observers; local commanders’ agreements along the borders; separation of armed forces; and marking of boundaries. There are still technicalities to be ironed out on nearly all of these partial steps–some in answer to objections by Israel and others to meet Arab reservations.


Israel, he revealed, has not agreed fully to the idea of withdrawing armed forces by creating some sort of no man’s land. Egypt has not agreed fully to barbed-wire fences along the borders, wanting them put up only at certain points. Syria wants the UN to put a patrol boat on the waters of Lake Tiberias–while Israel objects because it considers those waters entirely within its jurisdiction. Jordar and Israel have, thus far, failed to agree on direct contact between local commanders along their entire frontier.

Thus many areas of disagreement still exist, the report discloses. No solution was obtained to the Suez and Bnot Yaacov disputes. The Secretary-General felt that the Suez issue is one for the Security Council to decide, since the resolution ordering freedom of passage through the Suez for Israel shipping had originated in the Council. Likewise, he felt that the Council must interpret its own three-year-old resolution which had asked Israel to suspend work on the Bnot Yaacov project "temporarily." Israel feels that the "temporary" period is done, especially since the Arab leaders had at first stalled, then rejected the Jordan River Valley development plan proposed by President Eisenhower’s special ambassador, Eric A. Johnston.

"It is still too early to say what has been achieved in substance," Mr. Hammarskjold said in his report, "but the efforts made, in my view, were necessary as an initial step. Their value and effect will depend, first of all, on the good will and the actions taken by the governments directly concerned–in the second place on the support given to those governments by the world community as represented by the United Nations.

First reactions to the report here were that the Secretary-General had written a sober, thoughtful survey of the situation in the Middle East and that he may have opened the door to further efforts. It was predicted that a second peace mission to the Middle East may result–although that cannot be achieved in the too-near future. For one thing, the powers concerned will take a good deal of time to digest Mr. Hammarskjold’s report and think things over. Secondly, some of the powers–the United States among them–would not mind dragging out the situation for some months. The Soviet Union, too, may have its own reasons for not wanting any hasty action right now. The Security Council will not meet to consider the report formally until the week of May 21.

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