Thant Warns of Danger to World Peace if Suez Canal Cease-fire Collapses

Secretary General U Thant, in a report to the Security Council on the death last Sunday of a United Nations cease-fire observer at the Suez Canal, reiterated today his past pleas to the parties to observe the cease-fire. He did not, hover, indicate that he was contemplating asking the Council to withdraw the cease-fire observation mission.

He termed the death of Major Bo Roland Plane of Sweden a “dramatic symptom of the breakdown of the cease-fire” and warned that this breakdown threatened not only Middle East regional and world peace but risked setting a precedent that would jeopardize the 20-year-old UN peace observation operations which have been in force elsewhere in the world.

The report included in great detail the findings of a UN Truce Supervision Organization investigating board of the circumstances surrounding the death of Major Plane, who, it said, had been struck by shrapnel from an artillery shell that landed in the street directly outside a window of his observation post. The report did not, however, place blame on Israel for his death, though it indicated that there had been a lull “in Israeli firing” just before Major Plane headed toward the window and that Israeli firing continued after Israel had been notified of his death.

Mr. Thant said that “during the recent escalation of firing…each of the parties has accused the other of flouting the decisions of the Security Council. Without passing judgement on their respective positions, I can only note that both parties, whatever their reasons may be, have been violating the cease-fire with the result that the situation in the Suez Canal sector has greatly deteriorated and a United Nations military observer has died.” In his extensive report, the Secretary General appealed “once again to the members of the Security Council, both individually and collectively, to do all within their power to influence events in a new and constructive direction.”

He also said that “the absence of an early prospect of the implementation” of the Security Council’s resolution of Nov. 22, 1967 “is one of the factors which tends to increase the incidence of cease-fire violations not only in the Suez Canal sector but also in other sectors of the Middle East.”

Mr. Thant also called upon the Security Council members “to consider what more can be done to ensure that decent and proper conditions are afforded” to the observers “who serve the United Nations in the Suez Canal sector. A marked improvement in these conditions is essential for both the short-term and long-term” prospects of UN cease-fire operations, he declared.

In connection with his fears about the situation, he said also “if a trend were to develop toward a disregard and disrespect for the status, functioning and reasonable safety” of military observers “there can be no question that lasting damage might be done to this valuable instrument for peace.”

A UN spokesman declined today to comment on the El Fatah terrorist organization’s statement in Cairo Wednesday that it considered the UN observation corps as its enemy.

TEKOAH SAYS EGYPTIANS MUST BEAR RESPONSIBILITY FOR SITUATION

In a comment on Mr. Thant’s report, Ambassador Yosef Tekoah said today that it “fails to remind the world that the deterioration of the situation in the Canal sector has been brought about by the open disavowal by the United Arab Republic of the cease-fire. Egypt’s publicly-proclaimed policy of undermining the cease-fire and pursuing armed attacks against the Israeli forces is the cause of the present violence of which Major Plane was the victim. No report on the situation is adequate if it omits the UAR’s responsibility for the increased tension along the Suez Canal.

“We note that the report does draw attention to the fact that UAR military positions are situated in ‘the nearby vicinity’ of the observation post in which Major Plane” was killed. “In fact, Maj. Plane was hit by fragments of a shell which exploded short of these UAR positions. It will be recalled that, as reported by the Secretary General in the past, the UAR authorities refused to remove their military positions from the immediate proximity of UN observation posts.”

“We also noted that the Secretary-General’s report indicates that from June 1 to July 29, 1969, there were 74 instances of firing at or near UN posts or personnel by UAR forces and only 15 such instances of firing by Israeli forces. This has been the case despite the fact that the Israeli forces do not maintain military positions adjacent to UN observation posts, while the UAR forces do. As recorded by the Secretary-General on May 2, 1969, these Egyptian attacks resulted in the wounding of Capt. George Young of Ireland on April 22. “In addition to its responsibility for the deterioration of the cease-fire and for deliberate attacks on UN personnel and installations, Egypt bears heavy responsibility for persistent obstruction by armed attack of Israeli efforts to construct shelters for the UN military observers. Israel has expressed its grief at the death of Maj. Plane in the cause of peace. It hopes that the UAR will abandon its policy of aggression and will maintain the cease-fire so that tragic casualties may be avoided. Israel will continue to abide scrupulously by its cease-fire obligations on a basis of reciprocity,” Israel’s UN envoy said.

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