Israelis Surprised by Adviser’s Statement That Suez’ North End Would Be Opened

Israeli sources expressed surprise today at reports from London quoting the legal adviser of the Suez Canal Authority as having declared that the north end of the waterway, leading into the Mediterranean, would be opened to permit the release of 15 ships stranded in the canal and the Great Bitter Lake since the Six-Day War. They pointed out that the canal cannot be opened without Israel’s agreement and that Israel has only agreed to permit the clearance of the canal from the south end opening into the Red Sea.

Negotiations on release of the ships are being conducted in London by the Canal Authority’s legal adviser with a representative of Lloyds, the underwriters.

The British are particularly concerned over a reopening of the canal because they are dependent for their oil supplies from the Middle East fields on the Persian Gulf. Since the closing of the canal in June, 1967, the British have had to pay greatly increased charter rates for tankers rounding the Cape of Good Hope.

A report published this week stressed the shift towards supertankers specifically designed for the Cape route. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris forecast that giant tankers now under construction will make the Suez Canal route obsolete for oil traffic, which would have serious consequences on the Egyptian economy. The report noted that of 294 ships on order at the end of last year, 115 were tankers of more than 200,000 tons capacity.

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