Saudi Arabia Indicates Intention to Close Akaba Gulf to Israel

Indicating that Saudi Arabia intends to close the Gulf of Akaba to Israeli shipping, the Saudi Arabian representative to the maritime conference of 87 nations, which is being held here, said today that a royal decree was issued last month by his King extending Saudi Arabia’s territorial limits from the present three miles to 12 miles beyond its coastline. The gulf is only 12 miles wide along most of its 100-mile length.

Ahmed Shukairy, the Saudi Arabian delegate, bitterly attacked Israel in his speech today. Declaring that the Gulf of Akaba is entirely an “inland Arab waterway,” he said: “Neither on the Mediterranean nor on the Gulf of Akaba has Israel any lawful standing. The Gulf of Akaba is entirely in and its waters under the exclusive sovereignty of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Republic and Jordan. The Eastern Mediterranean is entirely within the domain of the United Arab Republic, Palestine, Lebanon, Turkey and Greece.”

The delegates of the United States, England and France at this conference are backing Israel’s right to innocent passage through the straits at the entrance to the gulf, through which alone ships can reach Israel’s port of Elath. A United Nations police force is now guarding the Egyptian shore of the strait, keeping it open to all shipping.

In announcing King Saud’s decree at the conference today, the Saudi Arabian representative told the delegates of the 87 nations: “Israel is without international frontiers either on land or sea. Under the Palestine armistice agreements, as endorsed by the United Nations Security Council, Israel’s status is one of military occupation and armistice lines dictated by military considerations and has no political significance.”

Mr. Shukairy then extended his speech to a reckless attack on Israel, and was rebuked by the conference chairman for raising political considerations at a non-partisan international conference. He especially took issue with Michael Comay, Deputy Director General of the Israel Foreign Ministry, who had rejected his claim that the Gulf of Akaba is “entirely an inland Arab waterway.”

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