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State Department Outlines U.S. Policy on Jordan River Waters Issue

The United States Government has pledged definitely that it would oppose Arab projects for “counter-diversion” of the Jordan River waters “if it appeared that the Arab riparian states combined were off taking waters in excess of the combined allocations to the Arab states specified in the 1955 plan,” it was revealed here today by the office of U.S. Senator Kenneth B. Keating, New York Republican. Mr. Keating made public the Government’s pledge, contained in a letter to him from Assistant Secretary of State Frederick G. Dutton.

The Dutton letter was in response to an inquiry made by the Senator, asking for clarification of the Government’s stand on the Jordan River waters issue. “I would appreciate knowing,” Sen. Keating had written, “whether the Government of the United States regards Israel’s present water diversion program as consistent with the 1955 unified plan for the Jordan River Valley; whether the Government of the United States approves and supports Israel’s current efforts for utilization of the Jordan waters; and whether the Government of the United States would take action to prevent other Middle Eastern states from frustrating this plan, either militarily or by other diversion efforts.”

The Senator recalled that the unified water plan of 1955 had been worked out by the late Eric Johnston, as a special Ambassador for President Eisenhower. The technical aspects of that plan had been agreed to by the riparian states involved — Israel, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria — but had later been rejected by the Arab states for political reasons.

In his reply, Mr. Dutton wrote to Sen. Keating:

“You asked specifically whether we regard Israel’s present water diversion program as consistent with the 1955 unified plan. At a news briefing on May 6, a Department of State spokesman who was asked this question, replied publicly: ‘We have been informed by the Government of Israel that its use of the waters from the Jordan Valley will be within the allocations of the 1955 unified plan.’ We have every reason to believe that this statement is true as regards the present Israel project, and we therefore support Israel’s current efforts.

REFERS TO PRESIDENT JOHNSON’S STATEMENT DURING ESHKOL’S VISIT

“In addition, as the President stated in the joint communique of June 2 on the occasion of Israel Prime Minister Eshkol’s visit, the United States and Israel will undertake joint studies on problems of desalting water, as part of the effort being undertaken to solve the problem of scarcity of water, and hope for rapid progress toward large-scale desalting in Israel,” Assistant Secretary Dutton emphasized. He continued:

“With regard to your question as to whether the United States would take action to prevent other Middle Eastern states from frustrating this plan militarily, a long-standing principle of U.S. policy in the Near East is our opposition to aggression. This policy was expressed in the late President Kennedy’s statement of May 8, 1963, in which he made it unmistakably clear that we oppose the use or threat of force. He also said that, ‘In the event of direct or indirect aggression, we would support appropriate courses of action in the United Nations or on our own to put a stop to such aggression.’

“As stated in the joint communique during Prime Minister Eshkol’s visit, President Johnson specifically reiterated this statement of U.S. policy. In the event that other Middle Eastern states attempt to frustrate the Israeli plan by other counter-diversion projects, the United States would oppose such projects if it appeared that the Arab riparian States combined were off taking waters in excess of the combined allocations to the Arab States specified in the 1955 plan. The form of any such U.S. opposition would of course depend upon the circumstances prevailing at that time.”

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