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        Security Council
4 January 1955

Held in New York, on Tuesday, 4 January 1955, at 3 p.m.


President: Sir Leslie MUNRO (New Zealand).

Present: The representatives of the following countries: Belgium, Brazil, China, France, Iran, New Zealand, Peru, Turkey, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America.

Provisional agenda (S/Agenda/687)

1. Adoption of the agenda.

2. The Palestinian question:

Complaint by Israel against Egypt concerning:
Tribute to the memory of Colonel José Antonio Remon,
President of the Republic of Panama

1. The PRESIDENT: It so happens that this is the first occasion that a body of the United Nations has met since the death of the late President of Panama.

2. The Council, which will recall the address to the General Assembly 1/ by the distinguished President of the Republic of Panama, a Member of the United Nations, will have learned of his death with profound sorrow. I am sure that the Council would wish to express to the Government and people of Panama its sincere sympathy on this tragic occasion.

3. I ask the Council to stand in silence in tribute to the memory of the deceased President.

The representatives stood in silence.

Expression of thanks to the retiring President and
welcome to new members

4. The PRESIDENT: Before proceeding to the adoption of today's agenda, I wish to express, on behalf of the Council, deep appreciation to Mr. Charles Malik, representative of Lebanon, who was President of the Council in December 1954. Since that was also the last month of Lebanon's term on the Security Council, it is fitting that I should pay tribute both to Mr. Malik's distinguished conduct of the presidency in December, and to the wisdom and understanding which he has contributed to the debates of the Council during the past two years.

5. The Council will wish me also, I know, to express its appreciation to the representatives of the other retiring members of the Council, Mr. Urrutia, representative of Colombia, and Mr. Borberg, representative of Denmark. It would be almost superfluous for me to attempt to add to the tributes which were paid to Mr. Urrutia only a few weeks ago when he brought to a most successful conclusion the deliberations of the First Committee of the General Assembly. 2/ He has won the respect and the admiration of us all in the Council as well as in the Assembly.

6. An equal tribute must be paid to the wise counsel of the representative of Denmark, whose quiet and penetrating observations have invariably illuminated our tasks. We shall miss all three representatives as friends and colleagues in this Council, but we shall look forward to a continued association with them in other organs of the United Nations.

7. It is now my very pleasant duty to welcome the three new members of the Council-- Belgium, Iran and Peru. Of these, only Belgium has previously been a member of the Council, but all three are to be represented here, if I may say so, by veteran statesmen of the United Nations. Both Mr. van Langenhove and Mr. Nisot represented Belgium in the Security Council in 1947 and 1948. We all remember the brilliance with which Mr. van Langenhove conducted the proceedings of the First Committee of the General Assembly at the eighth session. He has been associated with the work of the United Nations since its inception, and has held many high posts in his country's service, including that of Secretary-General of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. I know that the Council will benefit from his experience and his wisdom.

8. I may express a similar sentiment about the representative of Iran, Mr. Entezam, who also has been associated with the United Nations since the very beginning. Mr. Entezam's distinguished career scarcely requires recapitulation by me. He has held several Cabinet posts in the Iranian Government, including the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and he is now the Ambassador of his country to the United States of America. He has presided as chairman of committees of the General Assembly on more than one occasion, and his flair in this field was nowhere better demonstrated than during his presidency of the General Assembly at its fifth session. The Council will be the richer for his presence.

9. The representative of Peru, Mr. Belaúnde, as learned in philosophy, law and history as he is experienced in diplomacy, equally needs no introduction to the Council. He represented Peru at the San Francisco Conference and, before that, at the League of Nations. In the General Assembly he, too, has served as chairman of more than one committee, and his eloquence and his perspicacity have made him one of the best known and most respected figures in the United Nations. We welcome him as an old friend and as a valued colleague.

10. Mr. NISOT (Belgium) (translated from French): Although only eleven States are members of the Security under the Charter the Council occupies a central and predominant position in the United Nations machinery. Constitutionally, it is vested with the main responsibility for the maintenance of international peace security. It is on behalf of the entire Organization that it discharges the resulting duties. Its non-permanent members are, in accordance with the Charter, appointed with due regard in the first instance to their contribution to the maintenance of international peace and security and to the other purposes of the Organization. Once elected by the Assembly, they draw their duties and powers directly from the Charter.

11. It was hardly necessary to recall these constitutional commonplaces in order to bring out the fact that the responsibilities weighing upon the States which the General Assembly has chosen are heavy. My country is the more aware of these responsibilities in that this is, as the President has been kind enough to remind us, the second time it has been called upon to exercise them.

12. I should like to express my deep gratitude to the president for the kind words with which he has welcomed the representatives of Belgium to the Council table. I particularly appreciated them, coming as they did from Sir Leslie Munro, the representative of New Zealand, a country with which Belgium maintains the most friendly relations.

13. Mr. ENTEZAM (Iran) (translated from French): I am most grateful to the President for his kind welcome to my country. Iran highly appreciates the honor the General Assembly has done it in electing it a member of the Security Council. It is well aware of the responsibilities entailed by that election. It will not evade them and will do all that it can to deserve the trust in it which the General Assembly has shown.

14. I believe that the non-permanent members of the Security Council have a twofold duty: to defend their own Governments' points of view and to defend the interests of the region they represent. But beyond this two-fold duty there is a higher duty, to represent the United Nations as a whole, for, according to the Charter--as the representative of Belgium has rightly reminded us--the Security Council does not act solely on behalf of the States which are members of it but rather on behalf of all the States Members of the United Nations. The representatives of Iran who sit on the Security Council will bear this duty constantly in mind.

15. I should now like to associate myself with the President in paying a tribute to Lebanon and to its eminent representative, Mr. Charles Malik. The part which Mr. Malik and his country have played, both in the Economic and Social Council and in the Security Council, is too well known for me to need to expatiate On it. I am very well aware how hard it is to replace SO distinguished an outgoing member. I shall, however, do my best to follow his example.

16. I shall say nothing of the unmerited praise bestowed on me personally. I admit to no merit save that of being a devoted servant of the United Nations.

17. Mr. BELAÚNDE (Peru) (translated from Spanish): The delegation of Peru has little to add to the considerations expressed so eloquently and so rightly by the representatives of Belgium and Iran about the part to be played by the Security Council and the responsibility incumbent upon it.

18. I should like to express my conviction that, at this decisive moment in the history of mankind, we all retain, today more than ever, our faith in the United Nations and, in particular, in the role the Charter confers on the Security Council.

19. In the fulfillment of that role, the representative of Peru, conscious of these responsibilities, feels encouraged, first, by the mandate he has received from the Assembly; secondly, by the mandate--implicit, indeed, but no less effective for that--of the countries which make up the regional organization which Peru represents; and, above all I wish to emphasize this particularly--by my country's juridical tradition and its fervent adherence to the United Nations Charter, to its principles and to its ideals, and by its belief that the Charter constitutes the true hope of peace for mankind.

20. I wish to associate myself with the well-deserved tribute which the President has paid to the representatives who have ended their service on the Council: to our eminent colleague, the representative of Lebanon; to the representative of Denmark, who has worked so well in the Council; and to the representative of Colombia, whom I have the honor to replace and whose activities were so outstanding both in the Council and in the Assembly.

21. I also wish particularly to express my thanks to the President for the generous words which he addressed to the delegation of Peru. I believe those words were actuated by the intellectual sympathy which has existed from the outset between the representative of New Zealand and the representative of Peru, and by the bonds of friendship between the two countries.

22. Having thus, once again, expressed my conviction and my faith, I should like to assure the Security Council that I am ready and willing to work with enthusiasm for the lofty ideals of the United Nations.

23. Sir Pierson DIXON (United Kingdom): The President speaks for all of us in the tribute he has paid to the representatives of the retiring members of the Council, Colombia, Denmark and Lebanon, and in the welcome he has extended to the representatives of the incoming members, Belgium, Iran and Peru.

24. I intervene only to offer you, Sir Leslie, my warm congratulations, on behalf of the United Kingdom delegation, on the honor conferred upon you at the New Year by the Queen whom we both serve.

25. The PRESIDENT: I should Eke to express to my friend and colleague, Sir Pierson Dixon, the United Kingdom representative, my sincere thanks for the remarks he has made concerning the honor which has been conferred on me by Her Majesty. Other members of this Council have also congratulated me, and I should like to take this opportunity to thank them publicly. I know that they will realize not only that I appreciate their congratulations, but that I articularly appreciate the congratulations extended by another of Her Majesty’s ambassadors.

Adoption of the agenda

The agenda was adopted.

The Palestine question

Complaint by Israel against Egypt concerning: (a) enforcement by Egypt of restrictions on the passage of ships trading with Israel through the Suez Canal (S/3296, S/3297 and Corr.1, S/3298, S/3300, S/3302, S/3309, S/3310, S/3311, S/3315, S/3323, S/3325, S/3326, S/3333, S/3335)

At the invitation of the President, Mr. Loutfi, representative of Egypt, and Mr. Eban, representative of Israel, took places at the Council table.

26. The PRESIDENT: This meeting has been called if the request of the representative of Israel, and I would therefore ask that representative whether he desires to address the Council now.

27. Mr. EBAN (Israel): If it meets the Security Council's convenience, I should prefer to postpone my observations until members of the Council have had an opportunity of expressing themselves on this issue.

28. The PRESIDENT: The other party to this case is the State of Egypt. I therefore ask the representative of Egypt whether he wishes to address the Council now.

29. Mr. LOUTFI (Egypt) (translated from French): I should like to thank the President for allowing me to speak once again on the Bat Galim affair. I shall be brief, for the facts are too well known for me to dwell on them.

30. The present situation may be summarized as follows.

31. My delegation informed the Security Council, on 4 December 1954 [S/3326], of its intention to release the Bat Galim's crew, in view of the fact that the Egyptian judicial authorities had found that there was not sufficient evidence to bring the accused before the criminal courts on the basis of the charges against them. Today, the members of the crew are at liberty; they were taken to the Israel-Egyptian demarcation line on 1 January of this year.

32. We should have preferred it had a representative Of General Burns been present at the time when the crew was set at liberty, but, for reasons which I consider it unnecessary to discuss here, our suggestion was rejected, and we can only express our regret. Similarly, the Israel delegation to the Mixed Armistice Commission did not see fit to lend its co-operation in connection with the release of the crew.

33. The Egyptian Government is still ready to hand over the Bat Galim's cargo; it might, for instance, be placed aboard a neutral vessel bound for Haifa.

34. As I had the honor to inform the Council in my letter of 23 December 1954 [S/3335], my Government is prepared to release the vessel itself, We have no objection, for example, to a sub-committee of the Mixed Armistice Commission discussing the arrangements for the ship's release.

35. Such is the final phase of the Bat Galim affair. I do not wish to add anything further for the time being. I wished to make this statement in order to acquaint the embers of the Council with all the facts of the matter.

36. Sir Pierson DIXON (United Kingdom): The Security Council has met several times on this question since the permanent representative of Israel on 4 October 1954 sent to the President of the Council the letter contained in document S/3300. At those meetings, the Council heard a number of important statements by the representatives of Israel and Egypt, but the members of the Council themselves so far have refrained from going into the substance of the matter brought to its attention by the Government of Israel.

37. At our 682nd meeting, on 14 October 1954, the members of the Council all agreed that, before proceeding further, it would be advisable to have before them a report on the Bat Galim incident by the Egyptian-Israel Mixed Armistice Commission. At our 683rd, 684th and 685th meetings, early in November, we were primarily concerned with the delays that had occurred in considering the incident in the Mixed Armistice Commission. By the end of November, the case had been heard in the Mixed Armistice Commission and a report had been sent to the Secretary-General by the Chief of Staff of the Truce Supervision Organization [S/3323]. But, when we met for our 686th meeting, on 7 December 1954, we had not, as it seemed to me, had quite enough time to consider the implications of the letter, dated 4 December 1954, from the representative of Egypt (S/3326]. In that document, it was stated that the Egyptian judicial authorities had set aside, owing to insufficient evidence, the very serious charges brought against the members of the crew of the Bat Galim, that the seamen would be released as soon as the necessary formalities had been concluded, and that the Egyptian Government was prepared to release the seized cargo immediately. Nothing was said in that letter about the release of the ship, but, as I remarked at the time, the developments reported by the representative of Egypt were welcome, so far as they went, and it seemed desirable that we should have a little more time to reflect on what we should do next [686th meeting, paras. 149 and 150].

38. So much for the past history of this question, so far as the Security Council is concerned. Now that the Council is meeting again, for the sixth time, on this question, I think that the time has come when I must set forth, quite briefly, the position of my Government in regard to certain basic principles involved in this regrettable incident.

39. In the first place, of course, my Government attaches the highest degree of importance to the principle of freedom of navigation through the Suez Canal, as set forth in the Convention respecting the free navigation of the Suez Maritime Canal, signed in Constantinople on 29 October 1888. 3/ We have constantly said so, and I feel bound to say so again. The Suez Canal is one of the main arteries of traffic in the world, it is of particular importance to the members of the Commonwealth and, as the accident which took place there on 31 December 1954 showed in a dramatic manner, any stoppage of traffic there, for whatever reason, has immediate repercussions of the most far-reaching kind. That is one reason why my Government cannot fail to follow with the keenest interest any question involving the principle of free navigation through the Suez Canal.

40. Now, the Egyptian Government has, of course, repeatedly, both here in this Council and elsewhere, declared its intention of abiding in the strictest way by the Convention of Constantinople and has maintained that the restrictions which it has imposed on traffic through the Canal with Israel do not conflict with the terms of that convention. My Government welcomes the clear stand taken by Egypt on the question of the continuing validity of the Convention of Constantinople, which is of such importance to all the nations of the world. Unhappily, however, my Government has not felt able to accept the interpretation which the Government of Egypt places on the relevant sections of the Convention in this particular context. That is one reason why the present dispute between Egypt and Israel over the use of the Canal is of particular interest to my country, as one of the great trading nations of the world.

41. The second reason for the concern which my Government feels over this dispute is of a different kind. As we all know, in 1951 the Security Council considered the dispute in great detail, and on 1 September of that year the Council passed a resolution [S/2322] which called upon Egypt to terminate the restrictions on the passage of international commercial shipping and goods wherever bound, and to cease all interference with such shipping beyond that essential to the safety of shipping in the Canal itself and to the observance of the international conventions in force.

42. At our meetings in the autumn of 1954, the representative of Egypt told us that the picture drawn by the representative of Israel of increased restrictions on the use of the Canal was exaggerated, and even false. He said that, since March 1954, Egypt had refrained from restrictions on the passage of shipping to or from Israel through the Canal. That statement was, I feel sure, welcome to members of the Council. Any alleviation of the situation must be welcome to us. It is no use seeing things in terms of black and white only. But the fact remains--and it is surely an undisputed fact that the Government of Egypt has not yet seen its way to complying fully with the Council's resolution of 1951. That fact is, to my mind, not only regrettable, but even dangerous.

43. As I pointed out when I spoke in the Council on this subject on 25 March 1954 [663rd meeting], it is not long ago that the Holy Land was a battlefield, and if there was first a truce and then an armistice régime, this was due in very large part to the unceasing efforts of the Security Council. The armistice agreements clearly looked forward to a permanent settlement in Palestine, a settlement which still eludes the parties and which the Security Council, with the best will in the world, cannot bring about by itself. But, in the absence of something more permanent, the Council has a responsibility in maintaining the present provisional structure. It cannot do this without the co-operation of the parties, even on questions--perhaps I should say more particularly on questions--where its decisions are unwelcome to one or other of them. And if the authority of the Council is underlined by the action of the parties or for some other reason--the consequences might well be disastrous all round.

44. These, briefly, are the considerations which cause my Government most concern in regard to the dispute between Israel and Egypt, of which the Bat Galim incident is the latest manifestation. It is, I feel certain, a concern that is very widely shared.

45. I now come for a moment to the incident itself. The dispatch of the Bat Galim from the Red Sea to the Canal, flying the Israel flag and bound for Israel, was, I suppose, intended as a test case. The Government of Israel was, of course, within its rights in so doing. Whether or not it was expedient to make this test case was a matter for the Government of Israel to decide. Here in the Security Council we are, I think, only concerned with the results. They have been unfortunate all round.

46. The only encouraging element in the situation, in my view at least, is that the very grave charges brought against the members of the crew, of an attack on unarmed Egyptian fishing vessels, were frankly withdrawn when they could not be substantiated. That was something to the good, and reflects credit on the course of justice in Egypt and on the good faith of the Egyptian Government. I should, however, have hoped that the Egyptian Government could thereafter have seen its way to letting the ship proceed on its course through the Canal, under such security restrictions as seemed appropriate in the circumstances. Though it would, of course, have left all the questions of principle untouched, this would at least have settled the adventures of this particular ship in a more or less satisfactory manner.

47. The representative of Egypt will, I hope, not take it amiss if I say that I regret very much that this course was not followed. As it is, at least the crew has been sent back to Israel, and today we have just heard the representative of Egypt, if I understood him correctly, say that his Government would not object to the establishment of a sub-committee of the Mixed Armistice Commission to consider the question of the ship. I am not clear as to the scope of this suggestion, and we have yet to learn what view the Government of Israel would take upon it. But it strikes me at least as an interesting suggestion. I would hope that something useful can be made of it, but I must reserve my right to comment on this suggestion made by the representative of Egypt at a later stage in our proceedings, when its implications are clearer.

48. Mr. HOPPENOT (France) (translated from French): The Security Council adjourned about a month ago to await essential information on the circumstances of the dispute about traffic through the Suez Canal which has once again arisen between Egypt and Israel.

49. Some statements made by the Egyptian representative today, together with the news received from General Burns, Chief of Staff of the Truce Supervision organization, give us a clearer picture of the problem put before the Council.

50. The crew of the Israel vessel seized at the entrance to the Canal on 28 September 1954 was released on 1 January 1955 and set free at Gaza. The Egyptian Government has offered to return the cargo and the vessel itself to consignees agreed upon by Israel. Such return seems, however, to be subject to the condition that the vessel itself shall not sail through the Canal.

51. Nevertheless, we have just heard the Egyptian representative suggest that the exact manner of the delivery could be determined by a sub-committee of the Mixed Armistice Commission. I must say that we do not yet see clearly the consequences of this suggestion. It is clear that it can be put into effect only with the agreement of the two parties and the Mixed Armistice Commission itself. My delegation therefore reserves the right to revert to the suggestion when the scope of this procedure and the details of its implementation have been more clearly explained.

52. In any case, the suggestion would seem to mean that the Egyptian Government maintains its claim that it is entitled to forbid passage through the Suez Canal to any vessel flying the Israel flag and manned by an Israel crew.

53. In his statements to the Security Council, the representative of Egypt based this position of the Egyptian Government on article X of the Constantinople Convention. Under that article, "the provisions of articles IV, V, VII and VIII shall not interfere with the measures which [the Egyptian Government] might find it necessary to take for securing by [its] own forces the defense of Egypt and the maintenance of public order ".

54. I shall confine myself to pointing out, as the French delegation has already done in the Council on several occasions, that in our view article XI of the same Constantinople Convention seems to us to settle the question in a sense opposed to the Egyptian argument. Article XI, in fact, says:

55. The provisions to which I have referred contain no limitation on such free use. It is permissible, therefore, to conclude that the measures in question must not interfere with any free use of the Canal, even by the warships of a Power that is an enemy of Egypt; a priori they could not forbid the use of the Canal to an ordinary merchant vessel like the Bat Galim.

56. The Council’s attention has, moreover, been drawn to another point. The Council is not competent to impose observance of the Constantinople Convention as such. It is, primarily and solely, the organ mainly responsible for the maintenance of international peace and security. More particularly, the Council has the paramount right of supervising the execution of the armistice agreements negotiated under its auspices between Israel and the neighboring Arab States.

57. Furthermore, by definition, breaches of these armistice agreements may endanger peace in the Middle East. There is no doubt in our minds that the exercise by one of the parties, on the high seas, of the right of visit, search and seizure of vessels of the other party, would constitute a serious breach of the armistice agreements; it would, in fact, mean the exercise, by that party, of the right of a belligerent, a right denied to the parties by the very fact that they have signed the armistice agreements. It will no doubt be said that the Suez Canal cannot be considered to be the high seas. But it has one attribute of the high seas, in that it may be freely used by all. That attribute is the consequence of an international treaty freely signed by Egypt. We thus return to the Constantinople Convention of 1888. The Council is competent to supervise its application in this case in view of the special situation created between Egypt and Israel under the General Armistice Agreement of 1949.

58. These, in short, are the principles which we continue to uphold and which have been stated on various occasions, and the Security Council put them into effect in its resolution of 1 September 1951 [S/2322]. The general scope of the Council's decision of that date cannot be questioned. On 1 September 1951, the Council asked Egypt to terminate the restrictions on the passage of "international commercial shipping".

59. We ask that Egypt should abide by the Council's decision.

60. We must certainly note that considerable progress has been made since 1951, in the sense that the regulation of the Suez Canal has been relaxed. It appears from the statement made by the representative of Egypt that his country does not intend to prevent the passage through the Canal of Israel bound cargoes, provided that they do not constitute contraband of war and that they are carried in neutral bottoms. I am glad to note this important step towards the restoration of a normal situation in that part of the world.

61. But the Egyptian Government's action in this regard cannot be fully commended so long as it stops half way. I do not think that Egypt stands to profit or to gain any security from the stand it is now taking towards Israel ships alone. We hope that, fully aware of the responsibilities attendant upon the exercise of full sovereignty over its entire territory, Egypt will give a liberal interpretation to its obligations under the international agreements which it has signed.

62. The assurances given to us here by the late Mr. Azmi as to the impartiality of Egyptian justice were happily borne out when the judicial authorities decided to release detained crew, for lack of evidence against it. I very gladly associate myself with the tribute which the representative of Lebanon paid to it in that connection at the 686th meeting. It is certainly the Council's wish that on the international level Egypt will be guided by the same principles of law and equity, and that it will as dispassionately apply the conventions which it has signed and the Security Council's decisions, which all States Members of the United Nations are bound to observe.

63. Although the Security Council must discharge its responsibilities with undiminished vigilance, we are justified, in view of the hopeful turn events have taken during the last few weeks as a result of the settlement of the Bat Galim incident, in expressing our confidence in the wisdom of the Egyptian leaders, and our firm hope that this confidence will not be disappointed in the future.

64. Mr. LODGE (United States of America): The case of the Bat Galim is one of a long series of cases considered by this Council in connection with the Palestine question. It must be looked at in the perspective of the hostilities between Israel and the Arab States that were at their height less than seven years ago, of the efforts of this Council to bring about a cessation of those hostilities, And of the eventual establishment of armistice agreements between Israel and its neighbors as a result of United Nations mediation. It must also be looked at in the perspective of the inevitable dislocations and equally inevitable adjustments that always follow armed conflict between States.

65. One had a right to expect, however, in the United Nations, that these years would show greater progress toward the establishment of that general peace endorsed by the Governments of Egypt and Israel in signing the General Armistice Agreement between them. The progress that should have occurred has been arrested by ill-considered actions on the side of one or the other of the parties to the various armistice agreements between Israel and the Arab States. There have been times during this period when such actions have threatened to re-open hostilities. These incidents have caused the United Nations great concern.

66. In the face of the danger of new hostilities, a series of resolutions have been adopted which have come to make up United Nations jurisprudence on the Palestine question. Each of these resolutions, together with the general armistice agreements, has become an essential link in the slow process of building enduring peaceful relations between the countries of the Near East. None of them can be disregarded without imperiling the validity and the enforcement of the others. Respect for each of them is essential if the tensions that continue to divide the peoples of the area are finally to be removed and the substantial benefits which each of the peoples concerned would obtain from a peace settlement are to be enjoyed.

67. The sole desire of the United States is to see a just and equitable settlement of the outstanding problems between Israel and its neighbors which will, in fact, benefit all, but we do not believe that this can be accomplished without strict adherence by both sides to the decisions of the Security Council, taken in accordance with its responsibilities for the maintenance of peace and security, and strict adherence to the provisions of the armistice agreements.

68. Thus we cannot fail to state our view that Egyptian restrictions on ships passing through the Suez Canal, whether bound to or from Israel, or whether flying the Israel or some other flag, are inconsistent with the spirit and intent of the Egyptian-Israeli General Armistice Agreement, 4/ contrary to the Security Council resolution of 1 September 1951 [S/2322], and a retrogression from the stated objectives to which both sides committed themselves in signing the armistice agreement. We cannot fail to state, therefore, that we look to Egypt to give effect to these decisions and agreements.

69. This being said, we must also take account of the fact that Egypt has responded in recent months to such expressions of view by members of the Security Council in a positive and constructive manner in a number of important respects. The late lamented Mr. Azmi stated on 14 October 1954 that, since March 1954, when the Security Council had previously debated this question, Egypt had refrained from "any interference with vessels conveying goods to Israel or coming from Israel ports and passing through the Suez Canal" [682nd meeting, para. 146]. Egypt has here shown a spirit of conciliation that we must commend and encourage. Further action to give full effect to the decision of 1 September 1951, to allow the passage of the Bat Galim, an Israel ship, to Israel, and to cease interference with Israel shipping as well as with neutral shipping carrying goods to and from Israel, will confirm our respect for Egypt as the legitimate custodian of the Suez Canal, only recently reasserted by Egypt's historic agreement with the United Kingdom. Anything less than this will not be consistent with the spirit and intent of the resolution of 1 September 1951, nor, in our opinion, with its express terms.

70. I should like to conclude on a note of optimism and hope that both Israel and Egypt will take further steps to reduce tensions, to settle their differences in accordance with the spirit and intent of the decisions of the United Nations, and thereby to establish the conditions for a peace that can only be beneficial to both. I believe it is fair to say that during the past twelve months there has been a lessening of the tensions surrounding the Palestine question. Egypt has contributed to that result. Israel has shown forbearance and restraint in the conduct of its case here. Israel might well have shown impatience and resentment that it was not granted immediate satisfaction in such a case as this, where the majority of the members of the Council have shown that they believed the right to be on Israel's side. Continued co-operation by both sides in the efforts of the Security Council to eliminate the causes of friction between them should be the object of all around this table. The United States will continue to use its best efforts to achieve this end.

71. Mr. DE BARROS (Brazil) (translated from French): The Brazilian delegation would first of all like to express its satisfaction at the release of the crew of the SS Bat Galim on 1 January. According to a communication to the United Nations [S/3335], the Egyptian Government is also prepared to return the vessel concerned, together with its cargo, to the Israel authorities. This decision, and the statements the Egyptian representative has just made, are certainly encouraging.

72. Nevertheless, we cannot but regret that the Egyptian Government has not gone further along this path of moderation by allowing the Bat Galim to sail to its destination through the Suez Canal with its crew and its cargo. In any event, we think it undeniable that, in the midst of a whole series of incidents which make it ever more difficult to carry out the terms of the General Armistice Agreement signed with the State of Israel, the Egyptian Government has committed an act which could be considered questionable, as indeed it has so nobly admitted in public.

73. In his letter of 4 December 1954 [S/3326], Mr. Loutfi, the representative of Egypt, informed the President of the Council that the Egyptian judicial authorities had found insufficient evidence to justify the charges of murder, attempted murder and unlawful carrying of weapons which had been brought against the members of the crew of the Bat Galim. Those were the reasons which led to the release of the crew and the decision to free the vessel and its cargo.

74. Clearly, however, this decision does not completely make amends for the error committed or for the deprivation of liberty suffered by the members of the crew through being held in custody for months; nor can it compensate the material damage caused by the seizure of the vessel and its cargo.

75. The lesson we should learn from this unfortunate episode is very clear, in our opinion. It can be summarized in a few words: it is one more stone, one more stumbling block on the already too rocky road which we must travel to achieve the establishment of a lasting peace between the parties to the Rhodes agreement. The causes underlying this new incident are the same as the causes of the tension which has grown up between Egypt and the State of Israel. This latent crisis thus became apparent once again in a breach of the General Armistice Agreement signed in 1949, in an act which was not compatible with the resolution adopted by this Council on 1 September 1951 [S/2322] and which violated the stipulations of the Constantinople Convention.

76. In its 1951 resolution, the Security Council pointed out that the armistice r6gime was of a permanent character and emphasized the stipulations of the Rhodes agreements which prohibit parties from invoking the status of belligerent--the only, condition which, in our opinion, might possibly justify the exercise of the right of visit, search and seizure.

77. The Convention respecting the free navigation of the Suez Maritime Canal, signed at Constantinople in 1888, formally prohibits the practice of the right of blockade in the Canal by stipulating, in article I:

78. Free navigation in the Canal is also explicitly guaranteed by article IV of that Convention, which safeguards its use by ships of war of belligerents even in time of war.

79. It is precisely the difficulties placed in the way of the free use of the Suez Canal and its closing to the vessels and cargoes consigned to the State of Israel which are at the bottom of these continual incidents.

80. The Brazilian delegation believes that the only way of approaching a final solution of the problems disturbing relations between the State of Israel and the Arab States is to avoid, at all costs and with the effective collaboration of the Powers directly concerned, all incidents which impede the execution of the armistice agreements. The present disputes require a solution which goes to the root of the problem. Such a solution cannot even be contemplated so long as the present tension lasts. It is to be feared that, if further progress is made along this false path, further misunderstandings, further confusion, further incidents will take place which may well wipe out the initial results of the peace-making action of the United Nations.

81. In any case we cannot accept a breach of the Constantinople Convention, any more than we can pass over in silence the fact that a Security Council resolution is being ignored.

82. The Egyptian Government has just displayed moderation and a spirit of conciliation. Its attitude leads us to hope that it will thoroughly weigh the importance which the free nations of the world would attach to a far-reaching gesture on its part, a gesture which would not only complete the steps already taken, but which would also be consistent with the principle of free navigation in the Canal.

83. On the threshold of a new year, which is beginning under the auspicious sign of the release of the crew of the Israel vessel, we hope that the Egyptian and Israel Governments will display their firm determination to settle the differences between them.

84. The free world, exposed as it is today to a thousand dangers, would certainly find its security compromised its unity endangered if incidents of this kind were repeated. If the decisions of the Security Council are not respected by the States Members of the United Nations, the Organization's moral force and the guarantees it gives us all will be destroyed forever. The forces threatening the civilization which we want to defend would irrupt through the breaches made in its juridical structure.

85. Mr. NISOT (Belgium) (translated from French): I should like to ask the Council's indulgence. The new members have scarcely had time to familiarize themselves with this very involved question, and I myself would be very glad to have a few days to study it.

86. I would therefore ask the President kindly to bear this in mind when setting the date of the next meeting.

87. The PRESIDENT: I am sure that the members of the Council will agree that we should all have time to consider the matters which have been raised this afternoon--not only the members of the Council, but also the representatives of the two parties who have taken their seats at this table. It would seem to me convenient if the Council now adjourned until a day next week, but I think it would be inconvenient to fix that date now, and, if the Council will agree, I will call the Council together next week on a day which I can fix after consultation with the delegations. That, I think, would best suit the business of this body.

It was so decided.

The meeting rose at 4.50 p.m.



1/ Official Records of the General Assembly, Eighth Session, Plenary Meetings, 450th meeting.

2/ Official Records of the General Assembly, Ninth Session, First Committee, 754th meeting.

3/ For an English translation, see Sir Edward Hertslet, ed., A Complete Collection of Treaties and Conventions...between Great Britain and Foreign Powers..., London, Butterworths, 1893, vol. XVIII, p. 369.

4/ Official Records of the Security Council, Fourth Year, Special Supplement No.3.

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