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Suez Canal (Shipping Restrictions)

Volume 527: debated on Monday 17 May 1954

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if the Security Council of the United Nations has completed its consideration of the complaint by the Israeli Government in regard to the illegal stopping of ships by Egypt in the Suez Canal; and if he will make a statement.

It became clear during the course of the debate in the Security Council that Egypt was not prepared to comply with the Council's 1951 Resolution calling upon her to terminate her restrictions on the passage of international shipping and goods through the Suez Canal. A further draft Resolution calling upon her to comply with the 1951 Resolution was accordingly introduced by New Zealand and put to the vote on 29th March. Voting was eight to two in favour of the Resolution (with one abstention) but as the Soviet Union voted against, the Resolution failed to carry.

Although the use of the veto in these circumstances is to be deplored, it in no way affects the validity of the 1951 Resolution, and I trust that the Egyptian Government will not remain indifferent to the weight of feeling expressed against them on this issue during the recent debate.

If the Egyptian Government refuse to carry out the 1951 Resolution and defy the United Nations Organisation in this respect, is no action of any kind to be taken against them?

I quite agree that the refusal to comply with the Resolution of the United Nations in this question is a very serious matter. When the blockade appeared likely to be extended before Christmas last year the matter was again taken before the United Nations, and it is a fact that the extensions have not since been carried out.

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman appreciate that the question is based not so much on the Israeli position as on the fact that the Suez Canal is an international highway and has been recognised as such for a long time?

Is it not the case that the Egyptian Government had obligations in this matter long before U.N.O. came into being? Are not they in breach of their solemn contract?

In the view of Her Majesty's Government they have no legal right to take this action.

Is the House to take it that the right hon. and learned Gentleman implies that the Egyptian Government took a different view of their legal obligations prior to the inception of the United Nations? If there is a dispute as to the proper interpretation of the treaties, are not steps open to us to have the dispute resolved?

It is quite correct that the Egyptian Government adopt a legal view of the position quite irrespective of that of the United Nations. The matter to which the hon. Member refers certainly bears consideration.