UNITED NATIONS, N.Y. (May. 18)
Egypt filed today a formal request with Secretary-General U Thant calling upon the United Nations to withdraw the United Nations Emergency Force from the territory of the United Arab Republic and the Gaza Strip “as soon as possible.”
The request, signed by Egypt’s Foreign Minister Riad, was handed to the Secretary-General at noon today by Egypt’s Permanent Representative, Ambassador Mohamed A. El-Kony. Mr. Thant assured the Egyptian Ambassador that he would reply to the Egyptian request “during the course of this day.” Mr. Thant was scheduled to meet late today with the seven member states that have contributed military personnel to the 3,400-man UNEF.
Immediately after announcing the Egyptian request, the Secretary-General reported that Israeli aircraft this morning intercepted a UNEF plane carrying Major General Indar Jet Rikhye on a flight from El-Arish to Gaza. Mr. Thant said that he met this morning with Israel’s Permanent Representative here, Ambassador Gideon Rafael, and handed him a strong protest against the incident plus a request that Israel see to it that no similar incident recurred. Confirming his receipt of the protest from the Secretary-General, Ambassador Rafael said in reply to a question that he was certain a mistake had been made and that there had been no intention on Israel’s part to attack a UNEF plane.
Arthur J. Goldberg, the chief U.S. delegate to the U.N. said after a conference today with Mr. Thant: “The Secretary-General and I reviewed the present situation in the Middle East. I stressed the deep concern of the United States over reports of increased tension and military movements. I assured the Secretary-General that the United States will support any United Nations action required to keep the peace. We have been and remain strongly opposed to the use of force and violence in the area and any intimations to the contrary are totally without foundation. It is the considered view of the United States, which I expressed to the Secretary-General, that the United Nations has a continuing and critical role in keeping the peace in the area and that all member states should cooperate to that end.”
Mr. Goldberg added that the United States had made diplomatic representations to all countries concerned regarding the tension in the Middle East and that the United States Mission was carrying on conversations with all member states, including those which are members of the U.N. Security Council, regarding the situation. Just before Mr. Goldberg’s meeting with Mr. Thant, the Secretary-General held a 30-minute talk with Ambassador Rafael. The Israeli diplomat repeated Israel’s pledge “not to start hostilities.” He declared “UNEF fulfills an important role in the area but its job is not yet completed.” He called attention to the fact that several months ago, Mr. Thant told the General Assembly that if UNEF was withdrawn, “war would follow.”