HC Deb 20 April 1955 vol 540 cc161-3
4. Mr. Crouch

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the recent border incidents between Israel and Egypt.

Mr. Turton

There have been numerous border incidents of a minor nature since the attack at Gaza on 28th February. Armed forces of the two sides were actively engaged on two occasions, at Nahal Oz on 3rd April and at Nirim on 9th April. The Mixed Armistice Commission has examined complaints about these incidents from both sides and has passed resolutions condemning actions by both parties.

Meanwhile the Chief of Staff of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation has made certain concrete proposals for reducing tension in the Gaza area. In a resolution of 30th March the Security Council requested him to continue these efforts and called upon the Governments of Egypt and Israel to co-operate with him. General Burns is now actively engaged upon this task, in which he has the full support of Her Majesty's Government.

Mr. Crouch

Is there not a danger of these incidents developing into something much more serious, and has not the time arrived when the United Kingdom and the United States should be more firm with both the Jews and Arabs with the idea of getting them together to sign a peace treaty? How much longer does my hon. Friend think these 900,000 refugees can live in mud huts and camps with very little to do all day except bask in the sun? Can something be done about that?

Mr. Turton

Her Majesty's Government appreciate the danger that the continuance of this tension may lead to something even more disastrous. That is why we are giving all our support to the work that is being done in the Security Council and by General Burns, who is performing magnificent work in trying to reduce tension. While these talks are proceeding, we should refrain from comment in this House. As regards refugees, that is another question, but if a suitable opportunity occurs, perhaps in another Parliament, for the hon. Gentleman to put down a Question, I will try to answer it.

Mr. Janner

Does the hon. Gentleman not realise that the Tripartite Declaration is not in itself a deterrent to marauders who are crossing the borders of Israel and looting and murdering and that it is no use blaming those who retaliate if there is no security for their protection? Will the hon. Gentleman reconsider the question and deal with Israel in a similar manner to the way in which we are dealing with the Arab States, so that there may be an agreement between this country or between America and this country and Israel which will make the others feel that we are really determined to prevent them from crossing the Israeli border?

Mr. Turton

I hope the hon. Gentleman will study the reply I have given. The proposals of General Burns are directed to preventing marauding on the border. If, with his great influence, the hon. Gentleman can persuade the Israeli Government to do what they can to carry out the four proposals of General Burns, just as I hope all friends on the Egyptian side will do, it will help considerably to ease tension.

Mr. Shinwell

Yes, but is the hon. Gentleman aware that Her Majesty's Government have a Treaty with Iraq, with Egypt and with Jordan, and that there is no treaty with Israel, and is not most of the trouble attributable to the fact that Egypt continues to proclaim a state of war against Israel?

Mr. Turton

No, I think the trouble here is the difficulty of a frontier where raiding parties are crossing it and where all the incidents are of the nature that I have described in my reply. It would be a great help if we could get a system of agreement on the joint patrols and negotiation of a local commanders' agreement, and put a barbed wire fence along exposed parts of the demarcation lines. I hope all parties will do their best to bring that about.

Captain Waterhouse

Is it not a fact that as long as Egypt refuses to the Israeli Government and nationals free access through the Canal, they must expect to have retaliation in some form or another?

Mr. Turton

No, I hope that my right hon. and gallant Friend will not make that suggestion. We are doing all we can to reduce tension, and it will help to avoid these frontier incidents if both sides will accept the proposals of General Burns.

Mr. Beswick

Does not the Minister think that this is precisely the kind of occasion when an international police force could be usefully employed, and although there is a reluctance on the part of some member States of the United Nations to accept this idea, could not Her Majety's Government do more to persuade them of the usefulness of such an institution?

Mr. Turton

This matter is at the moment before the Security Council, and it would be unwise to try another solution while the Security Council is using its best endeavours to see that the proposals of General Burns are accepted.