UNITED NATIONS, N. Y. (Jun. 6)
Cautious optimism about Egyptian-Israeli relations was expressed today by United Nations Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold at a press conference here. He said that there had been some improvement over the situation existing before the Sinai campaign.
“There have been continuous developments behind the smoke screen and when the smoke screen is lifted, we maybe delighted to see signs of solid progress,” he declared. Pressed for clarification of this statement, he said it was a “feeling” of an improvement in the psychological situation.
The UN chief described the presence of United Nations Emergency Forces as having introduced a new element in the border situation, asserting “it gives us a period during which various matters can be discussed.” Discussing the two land mining incidents reported last week, the UN Secretary General pointed out that both occurred near the demarcation line. He noted that one or two men can slip through the United Nations Emergency force lines, and said that while UNEF was not “watertight,” there has been no “breakthrough” through it.
Touching on the question of stationing UNEF troops on the Israeli side of the demarcation line, Mr. Hammarskjold said he would liter to see “further developments along the lines indicated.” He added this was not the time to raise the issue. At the same time he emphasized that the issue was in no way “dead.” “We haven’t reached a solution that is saris factory to us or to others but we are pursuing the matter.”
(In Naples yesterday, Maj. Gen. E. L. M. Burns, commander of UNEF, said that the situation in the Middle East had “calmed down remarkably,” but refused to estimate when his troops would be withdrawn from Sinai the Gaza Strip and the islands in the Gulf of Akaba. Referring to the Akaba situation, Gen. Burns said his troops were prepared to take “preventive action” if the need should arise.)
STRESSES NEED TO GIVE “PROPER WEIGHT” TO THE ARMISTICE PACTS
Mr. Hammarskjold dealt at some length with the question of the Israeli position on the 1949 armistice pacts. Asked whether the decision on the demilitarized zone in the Huleh area involving the request of the Security Council for greater cooperation by Israel with UN truce supervisory officials applied to all demilitarized zones, he declared: “Legally there is no difference. Politically, we are in difficulties.”
Declaring that the Israel Government had given expression to the view that without the armistice agreements being cancelled, “somehow the Israel-Egyptian armistice agreement is not in effect at all,” the UN chief stated: I don’t know how to characterize this ambiguous situation.” He insisted on giving “proper weight” to the armistice agreements “because they are the only legal documents with which we have to work. I would be sorry to see them thrown out the window,” he continued. “If they are not upheld and respected, we haven’t got a springboard from which to jump.”
The Secretary General said that an Israeli figure of 50 instances of thefts and incursions since the withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula was difficult to evaluate. He said that UNEF has difficulties in handling such events because it is not fully or immediately informed and has no ability to carry through investigations of its own.
Dr. Ralph Bunches, Under-Secretary General, said that on most of the reported instances the United Nations headquarters have had no reports at all. “We do know from sketchy information they are inconsequential.” he stated. He stressed the fact that casualties had been reported only in the two land listening instances.
EMPHASIZES U. N. STAND ON ARAB BLOCKAGE AGAINST ISRAEL
Mr. Hammarskjold said the Arab boycott, which has been extended to all ships touching Israel, was in line with the oft-repeated policies of the Arabs and evaluation of these policies has been given proper consideration by the United Nations. Observers here noted that the Security Council has twice condemned Egyptian blockade of the Suez Canal against Israeli shipping.
The UN chief was asked by correspondents whether the UNEF troops at Sharm cl Sheikh would investigate the Saudi Arabian complaints of naval action by Israel. He replied this was outside of UNEF’s province. He indicated the United Nations had no way to investigate this problem and “we have not been invited to investigate.”
Israel diplomats here last night termed the Saudi Arabian charges “a flat lie.” It is believed here that Saudi Arabia is laying the groundwork for a formal request to the Security Council that it take up Arab claims that the Gulf of Akaba is an all-Arab waterway on which Israel has no rights.