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Us Canal Reopening Initiative Stalled

November 23, 1971
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

An authoritative State Department source admitted today that the American initiative to reopen the Suez Canal has stalled and that further US activity for an interim or over-all settlement in the Middle East awaits the results of the debate on the whole issue in the United Nations General Assembly early next month.

“We are of the belief,” the authority said, “that while neither Egypt nor Israel has closed the door entirely to an interim agreement, it seems clear in the light of recently publicly expressed reservations on both sides that in the next few weeks the principal preoccupation will be with the General Assembly’s involvement in that matter. We will have another look at the situation in the light of the results of the debate in the General Assembly.” While denying that the interim agreement was “dead” as a practical matter, the source said the next round will revolve around the Assembly’s considerations.


Department spokesman Charles Bray, in response to questions by newsmen, refused to confirm reports of Egyptian troop movements along the Suez Canal reportedly attributed to Western intelligence sources. Bray said “There do not appear to be significant changes in the disposition of forces in recent days” on either side of the Suez Canal. He declined to comment on Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s two bellicose speeches over the weekend to Egyptian forces, in which he said he will no longer go along with US negotiations for an interim agreement, and that there is no alternative for Egypt but to wage war in order to recover the Sinai Peninsula, occupied by Israeli troops.

Bray also refused to discuss whether the US received information from Cairo of Sadat’s threats in advance of their delivery. However, he did say that US officials have been in contact with the Egyptian government on subjects which he would not reveal. Asked if his silence on Sadat’s speeches meant that the State Department was not taking Sadat’s threats seriously, Bray responded: “No comment.” Department sources said that Israel’s request for Phantoms continues “under study and review” despite Sadat’s appearance with his troops and the arrival of up to 10 Soviet TU-16 aircraft capable of firing air-to-surface missiles.

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