UNITED NATIONS, N. Y. (Aug. 27)
As the Security Council was set to reconvene here tomorrow on Israel’s charge of aggression against Syria–and the Damascus Government’s counter-grievance against Israel–observers here saw strong possibilities today that the United Nations may condemn Syria of aggression. If such censure should be voted, it would be the first time in 12 years that any UN body had voted a rebuke against any Arab state. The last time such censure was voted was on September 1, 1951, when the Council criticized Egypt for barring the Suez Canal to Israeli shipping, ordering the Cairo Government to desist from such further discrimination against Israel.
It was emphasized here, however, that a more definite indication of the nature of the Council’s forthcoming attitude would be given tomorrow, when the United States take the floor in the debate in the Council’s resumed session. The U.S.A. is on the list of tomorrow morning’s speakers, along with Morocco and the Philippine Islands representatives.
The American stand, it was noted, could be decisive. The Soviet Union, on the other hand, was seen as possibly taking an off-hands position, perhaps abstaining on a vote for censuring Syria, in view of the current differences between Moscow and Damascus. Further, the possibility was not ruled out that the U.S.A. might even risk incurring a Soviet veto on this issue.
That was the situation here today following the Council’s receipt last night of an on-the spot report from Lt. Gen. Odd Bull, chief of staff of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization, detailing his and his staff’s investigations and actions along the Syrian-Israeli border. The report was seen as (a) confirming in every detail Israel’s charge that Syrian soldiers murdered two young Israeli farmers in the Almagor sector near the border on August 19; (b) failing totally to back up Syria’s charges, on which it has based its current anti-Israeli complaint.
Syria charges that Israel concentrated troops and used 15 tanks in the zone near its northern frontier closed to such armor. There is not a single word in the Bull report to support that allegation. On the other hand, the report shows clearly that of 60 or 70 shooting exchanges on the Syrian-Israeli border recently, Syria opened fire first except in two or three instances.
ISRAEL MOUNTS STRONG DIPLOMATIC DRIVE; COMAY SEES TOP MEMBERS
With the Bull report thus spelling out the facts regarding the claims by both Israel and Syria, Israel today mounted a vigorous, high-power drive to see to it that the members of the Council and the top echelons of the UN Secretariat read the Bull report with the care already given it by Israel–and act accordingly by agreeing to condemn Syria.
Michael S. Comay, Israel’s permanent representative here, initiated a fast series of high-level diplomatic conferences today to press home Israel’s claims against Syria and its support by the facts in the Bull report. In quick succession he met with the ranking representatives of France, the United States and Britain; conferred with the Ghanaian and Venezuelan delegations; talked with Norway’s Sivert A. Nielsen, who plays a double role as his country’s representative and as this month’s president of the Security Council; and had another session with Secretary-General U Thant.
Mr. Comay’s conferences today constituted the second round of his vigorous activities since he returned from a vacation in Israel last week. Prior to last Friday’s opening session of the Security Council on the current Syrian-Israeli conflict, he had met with every Council representative, including the Russians, and excluding only Morocco which does not recognize Israel.
REACTIONS STILL CAUTIOUS; ISRAELI ‘BREAKTHROUGH’ NOTED
As of today just on the eve of the Council’s resumption of debate, the reactions by diplomats representing member states on the Council were still cautious. Generally, they seemed to be sympathetic to Israel’s claims, cool to Syria’s counter-allegations. But they were still reserving judgment. Much depends on how the United States will interpret the Bull report–and how it will act, either directly through a U.S. -sponsored resolution or through a resolution possibly sponsored by some other Council member friendly to the U.S. viewpoint.
In any event, there was a feeling here that, already, both on the diplomatic level and through press and public reactions, Israel has registered a definite breakthrough by its complaint against Syria and the backing of Israel’s facts in the Bull report. The possibility is entertained that, to help the Arab states save face, some resolution might be put through without outright use of such harsh language as “condemn” or “censure.” Other, milder language, might be used–but terminology meaning the same thing would be just as effective from the viewpoint of Israel’s many friends here.
It was also felt quite certain here that the Syrian-Israel debate would be concluded this week. Council president Nielsen is anxious to have the Council complete the Syrian-Israeli debate by Friday or Saturday at the latest. Mr. Nielsen is going to try hard to see to it that the debate and whatever action the council may take does not face the interruption of a long Labor Day long weekend.