HC Deb 27 February 1957 vol 565 cc1224-6
39 and 40. Mr. Janner

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (1) whether Egypt has yet given any undertaking to the United Nations organisation that she will disband the fedayeen and not train any more of such persons for action against Israel;

(2) whether Egypt has yet given any intimation to the United Nations organisation that she proposes to withdraw her declaration of war against Israel.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

So far as we know, Egypt has never formally declared war on Israel. She has, however, maintained in the past that a state of war exists. I am not aware that she has yet given any indication to the United Nations either that she will declare that a state of war does not exist or that she will cease fedayeen activities.

Mr. Janner

In view of the negotiations going on at present and the statements which have been continually made by the Egyptian authorities that they are at war with Israel, may I ask the Foreign Secretary whether he will instruct our representative at the United Nations to see that a definite answer is given to this question by Egypt? Will he also ask that these bands of murderers who are being trained specifically in Egypt to cross the border shall be prevented from doing so?

Mr. Lloyd

I certainly think that this is a matter upon which there should be a clear statement as to the present position. Everything that we are doing is directed towards avoiding a situation in which the kind of raid and infiltration to which the hon. Member refers can take place.

Mr. Younger

Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman give an assurance that Her Majesty's Government are trying to get some formal statement by Egypt, preferably on the record of the United Nations, to the effect that she will play her part in observing the armistice conditions, including ending the state of belligerency and ending attacks across the border as part of an overall settlement?

Mr. Lloyd

Most certainly we are.

Mr. E. Fletcher

Is it not the case that only a state of belligerency justifies on any footing the blockade of Israeli ships in the Suez Canal, and is not this exactly the situation that the United Nations ought to deal with in order to bring pressure on Egypt to put an end to it in the interests of world peace?

Mr. Lloyd

We certainly think that this question of belligerency is one which requires settling as quickly as possible, and we seek a solution under which neither side will claim belligerent rights.

Mr. Langford-Holt

If a state of belligerency is claimed by Egypt, what right has she to require that Israeli troops should be out of the Gaza Strip or the Sinai Peninsula?

Mr. Lloyd

That is a very fair point to make. So far as I understand the position, what a large number of countries at the United Nations are saying is that Israel broke the armistice agreement and therefore must return behind the armistice lines. That is the ground on which they put their case.

Mr. Gaitskell

Is the Foreign Secretary aware that I believe it to be the view of the House as a whole that this matter cannot be compartmentalised, and while it may be right that Israel should be asked to withdraw, there ought to be, in any such resolution, simultaneously, a demand that Egypt renounces belligerency?

Mr. Lloyd

I think that there should be, in any resolution, not only the requirement that Israel should withdraw, but also that the situation in the Gaza Strip and the Gulf of Aqaba should be covered. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said on Monday, we regard that as a combined operation, and the whole of our effort has been directed to see that out of these discussions there shall come such a solution.

Mr. H. Morrison

Are we to understand from the Foreign Secretary that Egypt is claiming a state of war between herself and Israel—with consequences which are not only injurious to Israel but are in conflict with the Convention of 1888—but that, at the same time, Egypt has never declared war on Israel, and when is this preposterous situation to end? May I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman if everything will be done to unmask this somewhat irregular and hypocritical situation, and to see that real justice shall be done to Israel, who has been the real victim of aggression all the way along?

Mr. Lloyd

We certainly hope that such a solution will be found, because such a solution would be not only in the interests of Israel but, we believe, it would be in the interests of the Arab States themselves to get rid of this situation which has been poisoning the atmosphere in the Midle East. As the right hon. Gentleman will probably remember from the time when he held my office, the Government of Egypt did base their alleged right to stop Israeli ships going through the Canal on the ground that they were exercising belligerent rights.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

My right hon. and learned Friend refers to what was said by the Prime Minister on Monday, but mentions only the Gaza Strip and the Gulf of Aqaba with reference to the requirement that Israel should withdraw. Are we to understand that the clearance of the Canal and the freedom of shipping through the Canal is not to be part of the package deal, because that is surely fundamental?

Mr. Lloyd

I certainly agree with my noble Friend that that is a matter of fundamental importance, but I do not think that it is part of this particular negotiation. We hope that when the Canal is cleared, and we shall do everything we can to see to it, there will be freedom of passage under the Constantinople Convention. But the United Nations has been dealing up to now with compliance with certain resolutions which were passed on various dates—there are very many of them—and those resolutions deal with the withdrawal of Israeli troops. What we have sought to inject into it also is a settlement of these other two matters, which we believe are interrelated.