WASHINGTON (May. 21)
The United States has conferred with other governments, including the Soviet Union, to quiet the crisis in the Middle East, a State Department spokesman said today. But the spokesman added that the Department had no confirmation of reports that President Johnson has made an urgent personal appeal to Moscow for cooperation for concerted diplomatic action to keep the Arab-Israel conflict under control.
A report carried in the press here today, attributed to the London Sunday Times, stated that President Johnson had made secret approaches to Moscow to seek Soviet cooperation. The report said that Russia assured Washington of “firm interest in preserving peace there.” The report also maintained that, should this initiative fail, President Johnson would seek cooperation with Britain and France under the 1950 Tripartite Declaration pertaining to the Armistice lines in the Middle East.
Official sources said here they doubted that the Tripartite agreement was currently viable because the cooperation of the three countries that existed in 1950 is no longer in effect. These sources also said that Washington, in order to protect its links with pro-Western Arab governments, wishes to avoid unilateral involvement in defense of Israel.
President Johnson views mounting tensions between the Arab states and Israel with “deep concern,” White House spokesman George Christian said this weekend. Mr. Christian told the press at the White House that President Johnson is keeping in close touch with the situation.
BOTH HOUSES OF CONGRESS TO GET RESOLUTIONS TODAY ON THE CRISIS
Congress this weekend indicated strong disapproval of the decision by U.N. Secretary-General U Thant to remove UNEF from Egypt, and indicated that resolutions may be proposed tomorrow in the Senate and House to demand American initiatives for an expanded rather than reduced UNEF operation to keep peace. A strong denunciation of the UNEF withdrawal was voiced by a confidant and leading supporter of President Johnson, Sen. Henry M. Jackson, Washington Democrat, a member of the important Senate Armed Services Committee.
Sen. Jackson charged that U Thant “has pulled the props out from under the precarious Near East peace” by his “precipitate action in withdrawing the U.N. buffer that has helped keep the peace between Israel and the Arabs.” He urged the U.N. Secretary-General “to call an emergency meeting of the General Assembly and move rapidly to establish some kind of effective U.N. presence in the turbulent Near East.” He said that U Thant “violated all canons of courage, good sense and responsibility” in failing to consult with the General Assembly and Security Council on maintenance of peace in time to keep an effective U.N. presence.
Administration sources, declining to be quoted, said that the White House was surprised by the speed of U Thant’s capitulation to President Nasser’s demand. It was interpreted as an Afro-Asian rebuff to President Johnson’s policies in Viet Nam. The United States had urged U Thant to stall on removal of UNEF until the situation could be cooled off. A personal appeal was reportedly made to U Thant. The sources said that they especially regretted the rapid UNEF withdrawal because the United States had counted on the U.N. to keep peace in the area, since America, because of its ties with Jordan and Saudi Arabia, could not afford to become unilaterally linked with Israel’s defense.
MEMBERS OF SENATE CRITICIZE U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL’S ACTION
Sen. Hugh Scott, Pennsylvania Republican, described U Thant’s action a “shocking development.” He said the only force that could maintain peace was being withdrawn. Sen. Thomas J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, proposed that the Senate adopt a resolution calling for retention and augmentation of UNEF. Rep. Alphonzo Bell, a California Republican, said he would seek a discussion of the crisis on the House floor.
Sen. Jacob K. Javits, New York Republican, urged an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council to avert war in the Near East. He said, “If there has ever been a time for the U.N. to show it is capable of heading off actual hostilities, this is it.” Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, New York Democrat, in a Senate statement, expressed concern over rising tensions in the Arab-Israel issue and said: “We should take every further opportunity to remind all nations in the Near East that the United States stands firmly opposed to any aggression in that part of the world.” Citing Egypt’s demands for withdrawal of UNEF, and heavy Egyptian troop movements, the Senator recalled that the situation was precipitated by terrorist raids from Syria into Israel.
Rep. Frank Horton, New York Republican, accused the U.N. of “knuckling under to a saber-rattling aggressor.” He said the United States should immediately bring the crisis before the Security Council. Rep. Seymour Halpern, New York Republican, deplored the removal of UNEF and said: “In the abdication of the U.N., a firm statement should be made by the United States Government that the closing by Egypt of the Straits of Tiran would be viewed as an act of utmost gravity.”