UNITED NATIONS, N. Y. (Oct. 8)
Strong criticism of Egypt for blockading the Suez Canal against Israel was voiced in the United Nations Security Council debate today on Egypt’s seizure of the canal. So far five of the nine speakers–Britain, Belgium, Australia, France, Cuba–have focused on Israel’s charges against Egypt. The most forthright accusation against Egypt was made by Dr. Emilio Nunez-Portuondo, representative of Cuba.
This blockade, said Dr. Portuondo, affects Cuba directly. “We too are users of the canal,” he declared. “Our merchant vessels do not pass through Suez, but our products sugar, tobacco and so on–are carried to all parts of the world in vessels of every flag. It is clear that if the passage of a vessel carrying our products were impeded, it would cause us unjustified harm which we could not accept without registering our protest.
Dr. Portuondo denied Egypt’s claim that the anti-Israel blockade of the Suez was justified on the grounds that a state of war exists between the two states. “It cannot be denied,” he pointed out, “that that argument was rejected by the Security Council and that its resolution has not been respected. The Cuban Government maintains that the United Nations cannot function effectively if member states accept only resolutions which are favorable to them and ignore those that are unfavorable.”
Dr. Mahmoud Fawzi, Egypts Foreign Minister, and his chief backer in the Council, Soviet Foreign Minister Dmitri Shepilov admitted in their major speeches today that freedom of passage through the Suez Canal is an important issue. They avoided mentioning Israel by name. But the Cairo Foreign Minister insisted that his government’s pledge to keep the canal open to international navigation has “until this moment has scrupulously been honored and maintained.”
Wing Commander All Sabry, principal political advisor to Egypt’s President Gamal Abdel Nasser, later spelled out at a press conference his government’s interpretation of the pledge cited by Dr. Fawzi. Commander Sabry gave what observers here consider a novel interpretation by declaring that the Constantinople Convention of 1888, which guarantees that the canal shall be open “in time of war as in time of peace,” still makes an Egyptian blockade of Israel shipping possible when the word “war” refers to a nation at war with Egypt.
“Egypt cannot let Israeli ships pass through the canal,” Commander Sabry said, “because a state of war exists between us.” He insisted also that Egypt had a perfect right to refrain from observing a Security Council resolution of 1951 which ordered Egypt to end its blockade of Israel shipping, because “Israel is not acting in the spirit of the armistice agreement as far as border clashes are concerned.”
A spokesman for the French delegation here, however, accused Egypt of failing to honor its pledges regarding the Suez Canal and also of having been guilty of aggressions “on its borders.”
Meanwhile, both behind the scenes and in the Security Council chamber itself, Israel’s request to speak on its own behalf at the Security Council was still very much alive. An authoritative spokesman for the Cuban Government, which is a member of the Council, said that Cuba would openly back Israel’s request for at least some participation in the Council debate. The Soviet Union, it was understood, would not object to Israel’s participation, providing equal voice were given to the representatives of seven other Arab League members who also want to be heard.