WASHINGTON (Apr. 16)
State Department sources made it known today that Israel is being urged to seek a solution of the Akaba Gulf issue by respecting international legality but at all costs avoiding the use of force.
According to the State Department, it is in Israel’s best interest to seek international legal definition and backing of its Akaba shipping rights. It was indicated that the United States would support Israel in taking legal steps to ascertain and protect shipping rights. However, the United States has cautioned that it will not countenance use of force by Israel to decide the Akaba issue.
Lebanese Ambassador Victor A. Khouri yesterday registered an official protest with the State Department against the passage of an American-owned oil tanker, the Kern Hills, through the Gulf of Akaba to the Israel port of Elath. Mr. Khouri protested verbally to Lampton Berry, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs. He reiterated similar protests by Saudi Arabia and Egypt asserting that the Straits of Tiran are “Arab territorial waters.”
(The Danish freighter Briggite Toft left Elath this week-end for Ceylon and Burma with a cargo of Dotash and cement in the first round-trip through the Tiran Straits since Israel smashed the Egyptian blockade at Sharm el Sheikh during the Sinai campaign. The ship is expected back in two months.)
U.S. Government officials said today that the United States still supports the principle of innocent passage in the Gulf of Akaba. They emphasized that the Eisenhower Administration will continue to uphold the principle unless there is a contrary ruling by the International Court of Justice at The Hague. The State Department would like to get such a ruling to settle the issue, but Israeli sources said they did not want a court action and did not expect the United States to start action for it.
Meanwhile, it was learned here today that the U.S. has notified Saudi Arabian officials that it regards the Gulf of Akaba as an international waterway and that Israeli ships cannot be denied use of the gulf. American officials said today that this view was put forth to Saudi Arabian officials when King Saud recently visited this country. Saudi Arabia is said to have argued that the gulf is a part of Saudi Arabian territorial waters and that Israeli ships would continue to be barred from the waterway.