Salvage of Syrian Soviet-made Mig from Lake Tiberias Becomes Issue

Israel’s Foreign Minister, Abba Eban, opened a series of meetings here today with diplomats representing governments which have membership on the United Nations Security Council, to explain to those governments that Israel views Syria’s claims regarding salvage of its sunken MIG-17 in Lake Tiberias with “gravity.”

The Soviet-made plane was sunk by Israeli anti-aircraft fire during the battle with Syria over Lake Tiberias last Monday: Syria continues to demand through the United Nations Syrian-Israeli Mixed Armistice Commission that Israel permit Syria to salvage the plane and to bring up the body of the Syrian pilot of that craft, both of which are under the waters of the lake, a body of water entirely inside Israeli territory.

This morning, Mr. Eban conferred on this issue with the French, Bulgarian and Argentine ambassadors to Israel. Yesterday, V. Yakushov, the USSR’s charge d’affaires in Israel, made a call at the Foreign Ministry and was briefed on the Syrian situation by Arie Levavi, director-general of the Ministry. (Members currently on the Security Council, in addition to the permanent members — the U. S. A., Britain, France, the Soviet Union and Nationalist China — are Japan, Jordan, Mali, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Bulgaria, Uganda and Argentina.)

Israel is making it clear that, on no account, will it permit Syria to encroach on Israeli territory — Lake Tiberias, in this instance — to try to retrieve the lost Syrian MIG and the drowned Syrian pilot. This point was emphasized by official Israeli sources today. Is- rael has no objections to returning both the plane and the body, they said, but it will not permit the entry of Syrians into sovereign Israeli territory. That, the officials stated, “is out of the question.”

Meanwhile, however, Israel has suspended its efforts to refloat the Coast Guard cutter stuck on reefs about 200 yards from the shore of Lake Tiberias nearest to Syria. Israel’s suspension of its work on refloating the Coast Guard ship was ordered in an effort to ease tensions. The Syrians have concentrated heavy troop reinforcements, plus guns and tanks, in its area immediately overlooking the lake and Israel’s refloating operations. Heavy traffic has also been noted by Israel on roads leading to the Syrian fortifications near the lake.

Originally, the Syrians agreed to let Israel do all the salvage work in the lake, including its ship and the downed MIG. But later Syria changed its mind. The Foreign Ministry has instructed Israeli envoys accredited to all governments that are members of the Security Council to pass on to those governments the details and background of the entire Tiberias affair, and to stress what Syria now calls its “new policy toward Israel.” That policy, it is clear from the Damascus radio broadcasts, includes refusal to deal with Israeli problems through the United Nations and overt encouragement to members of El Fatah, the Arab terrorist gangs, for sabotage inside Israel.

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