Israel Reiterates Readiness for Direct Talks with Arabs on Refugee Issue
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Israel Reiterates Readiness for Direct Talks with Arabs on Refugee Issue

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Israel today reiterated its readiness to negotiate directly with the Arab states in regard to solution of the Arab refugees problem. At the same time, Israel rejected firmly any proposals that would impose upon its government a United Nations custodian for property which the Arabs claim to have abandoned in Israel.

Both points were made in the General Assembly’s Special Political Committee by Ambassador Michael S. Comay, chairman of Israel’s delegation to the United Nations. The committee, which this afternoon started its second month of debate on the refugee question, has now held 23 meetings on this one issue, having begun to talk about it on October 15. In spite of the repeated insistence of the group’s chairman, Carlet R. Auguste, of Haiti, that the body terminate its overlong discussions and vote on a resolution that would end this year’s talking, the committee adjourned again until tomorrow without any positive action.

Ambassador Comay’s move toward authorization by the Assembly of direct Arab-Israel talks on the refugee issue came in the form of an amendment which he introduced, altering a resolution presented by the United States. The U.S. draft would, among other things, refer to a 1948 Assembly resolution dealing with “repatriation” of the refugees to Israel and compensation by Israel. Mr. Comay’s amendment would strike out that reference, substituting an appeal to the Arab governments and to Israel to “undertake direct negotiations” on the refugee issue and pledging the U.N.’s assistance to the “finding of an agreed solution.”


The Israeli Ambassador’s statement rejecting the idea of a U.N. custodian referred to a separate resolution introduced by three Moslem states–Afghanistan, Malaysia and Somalia, In that draft, the Moslems, as a front for the Arab states, called for the naming of a U.N. custodian “to protect and administer Arab property, assets and property rights in Israel and to receive income derived there from on behalf of the rightful owners.”

As he had stated in the committee earlier, Mr. Comay today again affirmed that the United Nations has no Jurisdiction whatever over any properties inside Israel. Such properties, he insisted, are subject only to Israeli domestic law, and a U.N. custodianship would violate Israel’s sovereignty.

Moslems also introduced their own amendment to the U.S. draft, seeking to strengthen the reference to the 1948 resolution by urging Israel “not to obstruct any further implementation” and “deploring Israel’s continued refusal” to implement the provisions voted in 1948. Israel and other members have objected to that formulation. It was pointed out here by Israel that the 1948 document was only “permissive” in character, and did not obligate Israel either to repatriation or compensation.

United States sources said here today that the Washington delegation would reject both the Israeli and the Moslem amendments. They pointed out that the main aim of the U.S. draft was merely to vote continuance of the mandate of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees for a three-year term beyond the agency’s present mandate, which is to expire in June, 1966, and to assure that UNRWA can continue to aid the Arab refugees. The U.S. draft would also direct UNRWA to rectify its relief rolls, calling that issue “a problem which has been and continues to be of major concern to the General Assembly.”

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