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U.N. Assembly Scheduled to Open Today; Will Discuss Arab Refugee Issue

September 19, 1961
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

With an agenda consisting of almost 100 items, including two affecting the Israeli-Arab conflict directly, the 16th General Assembly was scheduled to open here tomorrow under the shadow of the tragic, untimely death of Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold.

One of the agenda items affecting Israel and the Arab states is the report which the director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees is to submit to the Assembly. The Agency, whose operations are financed by voluntary contributions given by various countries–70 percent of which come from the U.S. Government–provides relief and other services to the Palestine refugees in Arab countries. Discussions on this report are expected to precipitate attacks on Israel by Arab delegations at the UN Assembly.

The second item is a report on the United Nations Emergency Force which has been on guard, since 1956, on the borders of the Gaza Strip, opposite the Gaza-Israel frontier; and at Sharm El Sheikh, on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula, overlooking the Straits of Tiran. The latter international waterway is the connection between the Red Sea and the Gulf of Akaba, where Israel’s flourishing Port of Eilat is located. The UNEF item is expected to be routine, involving only the adoption of a general policy of continuing the UNEF operation and establishing its 1962 budget, calling for expenditures of nearly $20,000,000.


Part of the refugee debate this year will be a report–requested by the Assembly last spring–from the Palestine Conciliation Commission which was ordered to inform this year’s Assembly, not later than October 15, what progress, if any, had been made toward “repatriation” of the Arab refugees or their compensation by Israel.

The PCC has sent to the Middle East a special representative to discuss the refugee problem with the Arab governments directly concerned–the United Arab Republic. Jordan and Lebanon–as well as with Israeli officials. The special envoy, Dr. Joseph E. Johnson, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, has spent two weeks in the Middle East, during which he held talks in Jerusalem with Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, Foreign Minister Golda Meir, and other Israeli officials dealing with the refugee problem. Today, Dr. Johnson was en route to New York.

It is expected that the Arab delegations will raise at the Assembly the issue of self-determination in connection with the refugee debate, insisting that the “Arab people of Palestine” be given the right of determining whether they want to “return” to the land now under Israeli Government. The cry of “self-determination” for the Arabs is counted upon by the Arab delegations to gain sympathy among many of the new nations of Africa.

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