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India Backs Egypt on Barring Israeli Shipping from Canal

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Some uneasiness was manifest in Israel diplomatic circles today about the prospects of securing free transit through the Suez Canal for Israel shipping or shipping proceeding to or from Israel ports as an outcome of the 22-nation conference now in progress here.

Whatever the intentions of the American and Indian drafts before the conference as regards freedom of navigation for Israel shipping, observers here believe that the Indians fully support the Egyptian position that the issue is one for the International Court to decide, whereas the Western Powers would “expect” any statement of free passage for all to include Israel.

Krishna Menon, head of the Indian delegation, in addressing the conference yesterday, referred to alleged infringements of the Suez Canal Convention by Egypt and suggested that, if there were any doubts about this question, it should be referred to the International Court of Justice for a decision which Egypt should be asked to accept.

India thus went far to support the position Egypt took at the time of the September 1951 Security Council resolution. The Egyptians then argued that under Article Ten of the Convention, they were justified in restricting passage of Israel vessels.

Under Mr. Menon’s proposals now, any claim that the stoppage of Israel ships was a violation of the 1888 Convention would be taken to the international tribunal for a decision as to the meaning of Article Ten which sets out the right of Egypt to take measures for its self-defense. This argument was rejected by the Western Powers during the 1951 debate in the Security Council.

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