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British Troops, Aqaba

Volume 463: debated on Monday 21 March 1949

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps he took to ascertain from the United Nations Acting Mediator on Palestine whether Israeli troops had crossed into Transjordan and clashed with the Arab Legion, which had been denied by the Israeli Government, before sending additional troops to Aqaba; and whether he is aware that the sending of additional troops to Aqaba is a breach of the resolution of the Security Council of 29th May, 1948, which prohibits the despatch of armed forces to a number of countries in the Middle East, including Transjordan.

I understand from a paper circulated to the Security Council that the Transjordan representatives at Rhodes immediately brought to the notice of the Acting Mediator the reports received from Amman that Israeli troops had violated Transjordan territory. At the same time His Majesty's Government emphasised to Dr. Bunche the urgent need of first-hand reports by the United Nations observers on the spot.

As to the second part of the Question, His Majesty's Government have never considered that the United Kingdom, which has not been engaged in the conflict in Palestine, was debarred, under the Security Council Resolution of 29th May, from reinforcing, supplying or otherwise altering the composition of its Forces stationed in the Middle East.

Will my hon. Friend say, first, whether Dr. Bunche has stated that the sending of troops to Aqaba was a violation of its duties by a member of the United Nations Organisation; second, why he permits the circulation of exaggerated, lying and highly inflammatory statements before any investigation has taken place; and third, whether he intends to assist or destroy the peace negotiations now going on at Rhodes?

Our action in Aqaba has had an extremely beneficial effect on the negotiations for an armistice. On the subject of exaggerated reports, they have been made in connection with Palestine, but not in that context—very often a different context altogether.

Has my hon. Friend's attention been called to a report in this morning's "Daily Herald," according to which the purpose of the Transjordan Government in inviting British troops to the Aqaba frontier was to release men of the Arab Legion for action in the disputed triangle in the centre of Palestine? If so, and if he agrees with it, does he regard that as a proper use of the Anglo-Transjordan Treaty?

That hardly arises from this Question, but the hon. Member's interpretation of the word "action" is obviously open to doubt. I can only say that we are now considering the request from the Transjordan Government.

Is it not true that the best way to prevent any interference with the frontiers of Transjordan is to have British troops where they are? Does the hon. Gentleman not realise that the overwhelming sentiment of the country is in favour of a practical demonstration of our interest in the integrity of the Arab States?