JERUSALEM (Feb. 7)
Israel’s Cabinet discussed at its regular weekly meeting here today the latest developments affecting Israel’s security and foreign policy, in the context of the recent clashes along the Syrian border as well as in the failure of United Nations Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold to obtain any satisfaction regarding freedom of shipping through the Suez Canal from United Arab Republic President Gamal Abdel Nasser.
One of the topics at issue concerned the case of the Greek freighter Astypalea, which is still being held at Port Said after attempting transit through the Suez Canal Inaccordance with a previous agreement between Mr. Hammarskjold and President Nasser. The latter reportedly told the UN Chief that there were “irregularities” in the Astypalea documents.
Israel immediately rejected this claim, but Mr. Hammarskjold, unable to break the impasse of the Suez blockade, is seen here as catering to Nasser’s intransigence by requesting “both parties” to provide “additional information” regarding the Astypalea’s papers.
(The release of the Danish freighter Inge Toft from its berth at the Port Said entrance to the Suez Canal, where it has been impounded since last May, is being held up because Egyptian customs authorities refuse to pay the cost of unloading the ship’s cargo acquired in Israel.)
Meanwhile, Israel today notified the chairman of the Israeli-Syrian Mixed Armistice Commission that it was willing to meet with Arab farmers owning land in the demilitarized zone adjoining the village of Beit Katzir, near the southeastern shore of Lake Tiberias, and discuss ways whereby the Arabs could resume cultivating their land there.
Such a meeting, Israel Informed the Commission, would take place as soon as Syrian military forces are withdrawn from the positions which they have occupied illegally in the area of Beit Katzir and the village of Tawafik, where last week’s serious clashes occurred. Meanwhile, today, tranquility seemed to prevail in that area.