HC Deb 07 November 1955 vol 545 cc1477-81
49. Mr. A. Henderson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the number of United Nations observers stationed along the borders of Israel and Egypt; and whether he will instruct Her Majesty's Government's representative on the Security Council to propose that this number should be increased.

Mr. H. Macmillan

The number of Unitel Nations observers stationed along the Israel-Egypt border is normally twelve, of whom five are in the Gaza area and four in the El Auja area, with three in reserve who can be called upon at short notice. Another three are temporarily detached from the Truce Supervision Organisation Headquarters in Jerusalem for service in the area.

As regards the second part of the Question my right hon. Friend the Minister of State on 4th November informed the Chief of Staff of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation that Her Majesty's Government would support any request he might make for additional staff if he felt more observers were required.

Mr. Henderson

In spite of the splendid work that has been done by General Burns and his colleagues, does not the Secretary of State agree that twelve is a totally inadequate number in view of the length of this border? In view of the present situation, would not the Secretary of State take the initiative in this matter and propose to the United Nations that a much larger number, both of personnel and observer posts, be established on the Israel-Egyptian border so as to make it much more difficult for raids to take place, and make it much more difficult to bring about the situation with which we are faced today?

Mr. Macmillan

Yes, Sir, but I think that General Burns, who is in charge of this matter, is fully seized of it, and what we have assured him is that he shall be the judge, and he only, of how many observers he wants. If he wants more we shall, of course, support giving him more.

Mr. Godfrey Nicholson

Will my right hon. Friend inform us whether observers serve any function beyond reporting incidents when they take place? Does not this bring the United Nations into disrepute, because the general impression is that the observers are prevented from carrying out part of their task?

Mr. Macmillan

No, I do not think so. I think that the work that General Burns has done on behalf of the United Nations has been most valuable work and has reduced to manageable proportions, up to now, what might have been serious events. We must hope that that work will continue to play its part in bringing down the temperature and keeping any dangerous situation from developing.

Mr. Younger

While joining in tribute to General Burns and his staff, may I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman does not agree that very few indeed of these incidents seem actually to have been observed by the United Nations observers and that what happens is that the observers go along afterwards and make such inquiries as they are allowed? Would it not be better to give General Burns a chance of observing the border so that he may see what is going on in good time?

Mr. Macmillan

I will pass on to General Burns what the right hon. Gentleman has said, but I think that General Burns is a man of considerable character and experience and that it would be better to let him choose how many observers he wants, so long as he knows that he can have our full support in any increase that he may wish to have.

50. Mr. Janner

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the latest incursion of Egyptian troops into the demilitarised zone at Auja and into Israeli territory, and the continuous official statements of Egypt that she is in a state of war with Israel, he will now stop the supply of arms by Her Majesty's Government to Egypt and make a statement on what action is being taken at the United Nations to ensure that Egypt removes her forces from those areas in view of the threat to world peace.

51. Mr. Grimond

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the fighting near the Israel-Egypt border and the general tension between Israel and her neighbours, in view of the threat to world peace.

Mr. H. Macmillan

The House will be aware that during the last few days there has been serious fighting in and near the El Auja demilitarised zone. On 30th October, General Burns addressed to both sides an appeal to cease aggressive activities and Her Majesty's Representatives in Cairo and Tel Aviv were instructed to support his appeal. On 3rd November, the Secretary-General of the United Nations made specific proposals to both sides for the withdrawal of their armed forces from the El Auja zone and for the demarcation of the Egypt-Palestine border by the United Nations. Her Majesty's Representatives in Cairo and Tel Aviv have been instructed to support these proposals.

As regards arms supplies, I have nothing to add to the statement which was made by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State on 31st October.

Mr. Janner

Does that mean that we are today supplying jet planes and other arms to Egypt? Does it mean that we are going to continue our policy of appeasement of these blackmailers, who never will be appeased but will use these arms against whomsoever they care for purposes of aggression and not for defence? Is it not time that we formed a real opinion as to what is the position and took a firm hand in not supplying to desperadoes arms which they are using in this manner?

Mr. Grimond

While paying tribute to the wonderful work done by General Burns, may I ask whether it is not time that some of the responsibility was removed from his shoulders and that Her Majesty's Government proposed that the United Nations itself should accept the responsibility, which clearly belongs to it, and make proposals that the two sides should come together and see whether they cannot bring to an end this extremely dangerous situation?

Mr. Macmillan

This is the other side, which is being dealt with within the United Nations, and exactly what the hon. Member suggests has been done.

Mr. Janner

May I have a reply to a specific question? I asked whether we are going to supply jet planes and other arms to people who are using them for aggressive purposes.

Hon. Members


Mr. Alport

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether it would not be more helpful if the partisans on both sides were to use their influence to restrain aggression rather than to obtain military advantage for the country whose cause they espouse?

Mr. Macmillan

My right hon. Friend the Minister of State made a comprehensive statement a few days ago on the policy of Her Majesty's Government up to the present time. I ask the House not to press me to deal by a single answer to a supplementary question with a problem of great difficulty and complexity, in which large issues are involved and which has not been made easier by the incursion into this sphere of the policies of the Soviet Government. We are carefully considering with our friends and Allies what can best be done, and I am sure the House will allow me not to make a statement in reply to that supplementary question.