Ceylon Takes New Pro-arab Step; Abstains from Sending Envoy to Israel

The Minister of Finance in Ceylon issued a directive to the Treasury that all Government requirements of cement should be obtained from the United Arab Republic and that all transfers for the supply of cement should include a condition that only offers from UAR sources will be considered. The purpose of this directive is to promote trade between Ceylon and the UAR as envisaged in the trade agreement recently entered into between the two countries. The Treasury has raised a query whether such a condition would not be an infringement of other international commitments.

Circles interested in both Ceylon and Israel affairs are puzzled and disappointed by the continued misunderstanding in Ceylon-Israel relations caused by the unilateral steps taken last year by the Government of Ceylon. While maintaining diplomatic relations with Israel and professing interest in continued friendly ties, the Government last year canceled the accreditation of its Minister to Israel.

While the reason for the step–unprecedented between countries not divided by any conflict–have never been fully and frankly explained, it seems to have been motivated mainly by Ceylon’s desire to avoid antagonizing the Arab states and jeopardizing its considerable tea exports to those states. It had been hinted, however, that the accreditation of the Ceylon diplomat had been effected in an irregular manner by a previous government and that his recall was designed only to remedy that administrative flaw and was not to be construed as a concession to Arab boycott threats.

It had therefore been hoped that a new Ceylon envoy would soon be accredited to Israel in a regular fashion. As many months have passed since the recall and such a remedial step has not been taken by Ceylon, the feeling is gaining ground that, after all, the recall was motivated by Ceylon’s desire to appease Arab boycott threats. This impression damages Ceylon’s international standing and prestige, it is believed here.

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