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Egypt Mum About Legality of Its Seizing Israeli Cargo at Suez

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The United Arab Republic has failed so far to clarify its claims that it has a “legal right” to confiscate Israeli cargoes transiting through the Suez Canal, and U. N. Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold may cancel previously announced plans to go to Cairo to tackle this issue.

These facts emerged here today after a series of complex moves which included a statement by Mr. Hammarskjold, at a press conference this morning, that his itinerary for the projected Middle East mission “is not yet settled.” Immediately after the press conference, a spokesman for the Secretary General stated Mr. Hammarskjold’s plans “include the possibility that he may not go at this stage, although in all likelihood he will go.” The spokesman reiterated that the plans “could include the possibility that he may not go.”

Once again today, as at his last press conference two weeks ago, Mr. Hammarskjold answered question regarding the legal issue surrounding Israel’s claims to rights of free passage for cargoes through the Suez Canal. But his answers were overshadowed by the information revealed here from other sources that Mr. Hammarskjold has repeatedly asked the U.A.R. Foreign Minister, Mahmoud Fawzi, to send him a legal exposition of Egypt’s claim that it has a “right” to confiscate Israeli cargoes. So far, Mr. Hammarskjold, has not received from Dr. Fawzi any reply to these inquiries.

It was learned also, on the highest authority, that not a single word has been received by Mr. Hammarskjold from the U.A.R. in regard to the Inge Toft case. The Inge Toft is the Danish vessel, carrying an Israeli cargo from Haifa to the Far East, which Egyptian authorities halted at the Port Said entrance to the Suez Canal on May 21 The Inge Toft is still in dock at Port Said where the vessel’s captain refuses to unload the cargo which the Egyptians decided to confiscate.

Mr. Hammarskjold was asked whether some of his statements at the last press conference could be interpreted as a recommendation that the parties take legal steps. That question referred to some reports that he had meant to recommend the taking of the Israeli-Egypt dispute regarding the Suez Canal to the International Court of Justice at The Hague he replied; “I did not recommend or have reason to recommend

to the parties any line of procedure in respect to legal steps. I do feel that, if there are legal elements, it would be very wise to give legal issues a legal treatment. Those who base their claims on legal considerations should not hesitate to employ legal steps.”

In the light of the information about Dr. Fawzi’s failures to file the requested legal brief, that last answer was understood to amount to a challenge to the U.A.R. to make its claimed legal position clear. Asked whether he had planned to visit Israel on the next trip, Mr. Hammarskjold replied: “There is nothing definite on this for the time being, but I do not believe I will be going to Jerusalem this time.”

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