British Foreign Secretary Says Canal Closure Part of Whole Middle-East Issue

The British Government takes a view that the continued shut-down of the Suez Canal, in which 15 merchant ships have been stranded since last June, is not an isolated problem but part of the whole Arab-Israel dispute, Foreign Secretary Michael Stewart told the House of Commons. Mr. Stewart spoke in reply to Labor MP Emanuel Shinwell, who asked if pressure was being applied on Egypt to reopen the canal.

Laborite J.T. Price expressed the view that the Egyptians, by their closure of the canal, are trying to hold Britain up for ransom. "Are they not looking to this country for a massive loan?" he asked, Mr. Stewart replied that the Government was in touch with Egypt and Israel and doing everything possible to obtain the release of the stranded ships. He said he could not forecast when practical results could be expected.

Stewart disclosed in Commons that the Government had considered the idea of a temporary international custodianship of the Arab territories occupied by Israel in last June’s was as one of several proposals should the peace-seeking mission of United Nations envoy Gunnar V. Jarring end in failure. He spoke in reply to a question by Dennis Walters, Conservative MP, who has consistently championed the Arab cause against Israel. Mr. Walters brought up the custodianship plan.

Conservative Party leader Edward Heath today reiterated his party’s policy that "no settlement in the Middle East is acceptable if it does not recognize Israel’s right as a full member of the United Nations to live a life of its own choosing." That statement, made by Mr. Heath on June 7, 1967, was repeated in a letter addressed to Moshe Davis, press officer of the Zionist Federation of Great Britain. The Federation wrote to Mr. Heath last week asking him to reaffirm the Conservative Party’s policy toward Israel and to repudiate the anti-Israel statements made by Mr. Walters. The latter told an Arab rally here that Zionism must be "obliterated."

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