Report of the Secretary-General on the
Withdrawal of the Emergency Force
(June 26, 1967)
On 18 May 1967, Egypt's Foreign Minister Mahmoud Riad cabled Secretary- General U Thant and asked for the termination of the activities of the United Nations Emergency Force stationed in the Gaza Strip and at Sharm el-Sheikh and on the Sinai border since December 1956. Riad asked that the Force be withdrawn as soon as possible. A day later, without consulting with Israel or the Powers, U Thant agreed that Egypt had the tight to demand that the Force be withdrawn. On 19 May 1967, the UNflag was taken down in Gaza, the Force ceased its operations and awaited its repatriation. Its hasty withdrawal was later the subject of much controversy. The report by U Thant on the reasons which led him to order UNEFs withdrawal follows:
1. This report on the withdrawal of the United Nations Emergency Force (U.N.E.F.) is submitted because, as indicated in my statement on 20 June 1967 to the fifth emergency session of the General Assembly (1527th plenary meeting), important questions have been raised concerning the actions taken on the withdrawal of U.N.E.F. These questions merit careful consideration and comment. It is in the interest of the United Nations, I believe, that this report should be full and frank, in view of the questions involved and the numerous statements that have been made, both public and private, which continue to be very damaging to the United Nations and to its peacekeeping role in particular. Despite the explanations already given in the several reports on the subject which have been submitted to the General Assembly and to the Security Council, misunderstandings and what, I fear, are misrepresentations, persist, in official as well as unofficial circles, publicly and behind the scenes.
2. A report of this kind is not the place to try to explain why there has been so much and such persistent and grossly mistaken judgment about the withdrawal of U.N.E.F. It suffices to say here that the shattering crisis in the Near East inevitably caused intense shock in many capitals and countries of the world, together with deep frustration over the inability to cope with it. It is, of course, not unusual in such situations to seek easy explanations and excuses. When, however, this tactic involves imputing responsibility for the unleashing of major hostilities, it is, and must be, a cause for sober concern. The objective of this report is to establish an authentic, factual record of actions and their causes.
3. It follows, therefore, that the emphasis here will be upon facts. The report is intended to be neither a polemic nor an apologia. Its sole purpose is to present a factually accurate picture of what happened and why. It will serve well the interests of the United Nations, as well as of historic integrity, if this presentation of facts can help to dissipate some of the distortions of the record which, in some places, apparently have emanated from panic, emotion and political bias.
Chronology of Relevant Actions
4. Not only events, but dates, and even the time of day, have an important bearing on this exposition. The significant events and actions and their dates and times are therefore set forth below.
16 May 1967
5. 2000 hours G.M.T. (2200 hours Gaza local time). A message from General Fawzy, Chief of Staff of the United Arab Republic Armed Forces, was received by the Commander of U.N.E.F. Major General Rikhye, requesting withdrawal of all U.N. troops which install O.P.'s along our borders.' (A-6730, para. 6, sub-para. 3(a).) Brigadier Mokhtar, who handed General Fawzy's letter to the Commander of U.N.E.F., told General Rikhye at the time that he must order the immediate withdrawal of United Nations troops from El Sabha and Sharm el-Sheikh on the night of 16 May since United Arab Republic armed forces must gain control of these two places that very night. The U.N.E.F. Commander correctly replied that he did not have authority to withdraw his troops from these positions on such an order and could do so only on instructions from the Secretary General; therefore, he must continue with U.N.E.F. operations in Sinai as hitherto. Brigadier Mokhtar told the Commander of U.N.E.F. that this might lead to conflict on that night (16 May) between United Arab Republic and U.N.E.F. troops, and insisted that the Commander issue orders to U.N.E.F. troops to remain confined to their camps at El Sabha and Sharm el Sheikh. General Rikhye replied that he could not comply with this request. He did, of course, inform the contingent commanders concerned of these developments. He also informed United Nations Headquarters that he proposed to continue with U.N.E.F. activities as established until he received fresh instructions from the Secretary General.
6. 2130 hours G.M.T. (1730 hours New York time). The Secretary General received at this time the U.N.E.F. Commander's cable informing him of the abovementioned message from General Fawzy. The U.N.E.F. Commander was immediately instructed to await further instructions from the Secretary General and pending this later word from him, to 'be firm in maintaining U.N.E.F. position while being as understanding and as diplomatic as possible in your relations with local U.A.R. officials.'
7. 2245 G.M.T. (1845 hours New York time). The Permanent Representative of the United Arab Republic visited the Secretary General at this time at the latter's urgent request. The Secretary General requested the Permanent Representative to communicate with his Government with the utmost urgency and to transmit to it his views (A-6730, para. 6, sub-para. 3(c)). In particular, the Secretary General requested the Permanent Representative to obtain his Government's clarification of the situation, pointing out that any request for the withdrawal of U.N.E.F. must come directly to the Secretary General from the Government of the United Arab Republic.
8. 2344 hours G.M.T. The U.N.E.F. Commander further reported at this time that considerable military activity had been observed in the El Arish area since the afternoon of 16 May 1967.
17 May 1967
9. 0800 hours G.M.T. (0400 hours New York time). The Commander of U.N.E.F. reported then that, on the morning of 17 May, thirty soldiers of the Army of the United Arab Republic had occupied El Sabha in Sinai and that United Arab Republic troops were deployed in the immediate vicinity of the U.N.E.F. observation post there. Three armoured cars of the United Arab Republic were located near the Yugoslav U.N.E.F. camp at El Sabha and detachments of fifteen soldiers each had taken up positions north and south of the Yugoslav contingent's camp at El Amr. All U.N.E.F. observation posts along the armistice demarcation line and the international frontier were manned as usual, but in some places United Arab Republic troops were also at the line.
10. 1030 hours G.M.T. (0630 hours New York time). The Commander of U.N.E.F. reported then that troops of the United Arab Republic had occupied the U.N.E.F. observation post at El Sabha and that the Yugoslav U.N.E.F. camps at El Quseima and El Sabha were now behind the positions of the Army of the United Arab Republic. The Commander of U.N.E.F. informed the Chief of the United Arab Republic Liaison Staff of these developments, expressing his serious concern at them. The Chief of the United Arab Republic Liaison Staff agreed to request the immediate evacuation of the observation post at El Sabha by United Arab Republic troops and shortly thereafter reported that orders to this effect had been given by the United Arab Republic military authorities. He requested, however, that, to avoid any further misunderstandings, the Yugoslav observation post at El Sabha should be withdrawn immediately to El Quseima camp. The Commander replied that any such withdrawal would require the authorization of the Secretary General.
11. 1200 hours G.M.T. (0800 hours New York time). The Chief of the United Arab Republic Liaison Staff at this time conveyed to the Commander of U.N.E.F. a request from General Mohd Fawzy, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the United Arab Republic, for the withdrawal of the Yugoslav detachments of U.N.E.F. in Sinai within twenty-four hours. He added that the U.N.E.F. Commander might take "48 hours or so" to withdraw the U.N.E.F. detachment from Sharm el-Sheikh. The Commander of the U.N.E.F. replied that any such move required instructions from the Secretary General.
12. 0930 hours G.M.T. (1600 hours New York time). The Secretary General at this date held an informal meeting in his office with the representatives of countries providing contingents to U.N.E.F. to inform them of the situation as then known. There was an exchange of views. The Secretary General gave his opinion on how he should and how he intended to proceed, observing that if a formal request for the withdrawal of U.N.E.F. were to be made by the Government of the United Arab Republic, the Secretary General, in his view, would have to comply with it, since the Force was on United Arab Republic territory only with the consent of the Government and could not remain there without it. Two representatives expressed serious doubts about the consequences of agreeing to a peremptory request for the withdrawal of U.N.E.F. and raised the questions of consideration of such a request by the General Assembly and an appeal to the United Arab Republic not to request the withdrawal of U.N.E.F. Two other representatives stated the view that the United Arab Republic was entitled to request the removal of U.N.E.F. at any moment and that that request would have to be respected regardless of what the General Assembly might have to say in the matter, since the agreement for U.N.E.F.'s presence had been concluded between the then Secretary General and the Government of Egypt. A clarification of the situation from the United Arab Republic should therefore be awaited.
14. 2150 hours G.M.T. (1750 hours New York time). The Secretary General at this time saw the Permanent Representative of the United Arab Republic and handed to him an aide-mémoire, the text of which is contained in paragraph 6 of document A-6730. The Secretary General also gave to the Permanent Representative of the United Arab Republic an aide-mémoire calling to the attention of his Government the 'good faith' accord, the text of which is contained in paragraph 7 of document A-6730.
18 May 1967
15. 1321 hours G.M.T. (0921 hours New York time). The Commander of U.N.E.F. reported at this time that his liaison officer in Cairo had been informed by an ambassador of one of the countries providing contingents to U.N.E.F. that the Foreign Minister of the United Arab Republic had summoned the representatives of nations with troops in U.N.E.F. to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and informed them that U.N.E.F. had terminated its tasks in the United Arab Republic and in the Gaza Strip and must depart from the above territory forthwith. This information was confirmed by representatives of some of these countries at the United Nations.
16. Early on 18 May the U.N.E.F. sentries proceeding to man the normal observation post at El Sabha in Sinai were prevented from entering the post and from remaining in the area by United Arab Repubiic soldiers. The sentries were then forced to withdraw. They did not resist by use of force since they had no mandate to do so.
17. 1100 hours G.M.T. United Arab Republic soldiers at this time forced Yugoslav U.N.E.F. sentries out of their observation post on the international frontier in front of El Kuntilla Camp. One hour later, United Arab Republic officers arrived at the water point and asked U.N.E.F. soldiers to withdraw the guard.
18. 1220 hours G.M.T. At this hour United Arab Republic soldiers entered the U.N.E.F. observation post on the international frontier in front of El Amr Camp and forced the Yugoslav soldiers to withdraw. Later two United Arab Republic officers visited El Amr Camp and asked the U.N.E.F. platoon to withdraw within fifteen minutes.
19. 1210 hours G.M.T. United Arab Republic officers then visited the Yugoslav camp at Sharm el-Sheikh and informed the Commanding Officer that they had come to take over the camp and the U.N.E.F. observation post at Ras Nasrani, demanding a reply within 15 minutes. The contingent commander replied that he had no instructions to hand over the positions.
20. 1430 hours G.M.T. The U.N.E.F. Yugoslav detachment at El Quseima Camp reported that two artillery shells, apparently ranging rounds from the United Arab Republic artillery, had burst between the U.N.E.F. Yugoslav camps at El Quseima and El Sabha.
21. 1030 hours New York time. The Secretary General met at this time with the Permanent Representative of Israel who gave his Government's views on the situation, emphasizing that the U.N.E.F. withdrawal should not be achieved by a unilateral United Arab Republic request alone and asserting Israel's right to a voice in the matter. The question of stationing U.N.E.F. on the Israel side of the line was raised by the Secretary General and this was declared by the Permanent Representative of Israel to be entirely unacceptable to his Government.
22. 1600 hours G.M.T. (12 noon New York time). At this hour the Secretary General received through the Permanent Representative of the United Arab Republic the following message from Mr. Mahmoud Riad, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Republic:
'The Government of the United Arab Republic has the honor to inform Your Excellency that it has decided to terminate the presence of the United Nations Emergency Force from the territory of the United Arab Republic and Gaza Strip. 'Therefore, I request that the necessary steps be taken for the withdrawal of the force as soon as possible.
'I avail myself of this opportunity to express to Your Excellency my gratitude and warm regards.'
At the same meeting the Permanent Representative of the United Arab Republic informed the Secretary General of the strong feeling of resentment in Cairo at what was there considered to be attempts to exert pressure and to make U.N.E.F. an 'occupation force'.
The Secretary General expressed deep misgivings about the likely disastrous consequences of the withdrawal of U.N.E.F. and indicated his intention to appeal urgently to President Nasser to reconsider the decision. Later in the day, the representative of the United Arab Republic informed the Secretary General that the Foreign Minister had asked the Permanent Representative by telephone from Cairo to convey to the Secretary General his urgent advice that the Secretary General should not make an appeal to President Nasser to reconsider the request for withdrawal of U.N.E.F. and that, if he did so, such a request would be sternly rebuffed. The Secretary General raised the question of a possible visit by him to Cairo and was shortly thereafter informed that such a visit as soon as possible would be welcomed by the Government of the United Arab Republic.
23. 1700 hours New York time. The Secretary General met with the U.N.E.F. Advisory Committee, set up under the terms of paragraphs 6, 8 and 9 of resolution 1001 (ES-I) of 7/8 November 1956, and the representatives of three countries not members of the Advisory Committee but providing contingents to U.N.E.F., to inform them of developments and particularly the United Arab Republic's request for U.N.E.F.'s withdrawal, and to consult them for their views on the situation. At this meeting, one of the views expressed was that the United Arab Republic's demand for the immediate withdrawal of U.N.E.F. from United Arab Republic territory was not acceptable and that the ultimate responsibility for the decision to withdraw rested with the United Nations acting through the Security Council or the General Assembly. The holder of this view therefore urged further discussion with the Government of the United Arab Republic as well as with other Governments involved. Another position was that the Secretary General had no choice but to comply with the request of the Government of the United Arab Republic, one representative stating that the moment the request for the withdrawal of U.N.E.F. was known his Government would comply with it and withdraw its contingent. A similar position had been taken in Cairo by another Government providing a contingent. No proposal was made that the Advisory Committee should exercise the right vested in it by General Assembly Resolution 1001 (ES-I) to request the convening of the General Assembly to take up the situation arising from the United Arab Republic communication. At the conclusion of the meeting, it was understood that the Secretary General had no alternative other than to comply with the United Arab Republic's demand, although some representatives felt that the Secretary General should previously clarify with that Government the meaning in its request that withdrawal should take place 'as soon as possible'. The Secretary General informed the Advisory Committee that he intended to reply promptly to the United Arab Republic, and to report to the General Assembly and to the Security Council on the action he had taken. It was for the member states to decide whether the competent organs should or could take up the matter and to pursue it accordingly.
24. After the meeting of the Advisory Committee, at approximately 1900 hours New York time on 18 May, the Secretary General replied to the message from the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Republic through that Government's Permanent Representative as follows:
I have the honor to acknowledge your letter to me of 18 May conveying the message from the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Republic concerning the United Nations Emergency Force. Please be so kind as to transmit to the Foreign Minister the following message in reply:
Dear Mr. Minister,
Your message informing me that your Government no longer consents to the presence of the United Nations Emergency Force on the territory of the United Arab Republic, that is to say in Sinai, and in the Gaza Strip, and requesting that the necessary steps be taken for its withdrawal as soon as possible, was delivered to me by the Permanent Representative of the United Arab Republic at noon on 18 May.
'As I have indicated to your Permanent Representative on 16 May, the United Nations Emergency Force entered Egyptian territory with the consent of your Government and in fact can remain there only so long as that consent continues. In view of the message now received from you, therefore, your Government's request will be complied with and I am proceeding to issue instructions for the necessary arrangements to be put in train without delay for the orderly withdrawal of the force, its vehicles and equipment and for the disposal of all properties pertaining to it. I am, of course, also bringing this development and my actions and intentions to the attention of the U.N.E.F. Advisory Committee and to all Governments providing contingents for the force. A full report covering this development will be submitted promptly by me to the General Assembly, and I consider it necessary to report also to the Security Council about some aspects of the current situation in the area.'
Irrespective of the reasons for the action you have taken, in all frankness, may I advise you that I have serious misgivings about it for, as I have said each year in my annual reports to the General Assembly on U.N.E.F., I believe that this force has been an important factor in maintaining relative quiet in the area of its deployment during the past 10 years and that its withdrawal may have grave implications for peace.
With warm personal regards,
It is to be noted that the decision notified to the Government of the United Arab Republic in this letter was in compliance with the request to withdraw the force. It did not, however, signify the actual withdrawal of the force which, in fact, was to remain in the area for several more weeks.
25. Formal instructions relating to the withdrawal of U.N.E.F. were sent to the U.N.E.F. Commander by the Secretary General on the night of 18 May (see Annex).
26. Also on the evening of 18 May the Secretary General submitted his special report to the General Assembly (A-6730).
27. On 19 May the Secretary General issued his report to the Security Council on recent developments in the Near East.
19 May 1967
28. 1130 hours New York time. The Secretary General again received the Permanent Representative of Israel who gave him a statement from his Government (S-7896) concerning the withdrawal of U.N.E.F., strongly urging the Secretary General to avoid condoning any changes in the status quo pending the fullest and broadest international consultation.
29. On the afternoon of 22 May, the Secretary General departed from New York, arriving in Cairo on the afternoon of 23 May. He left Cairo on the afternoon of 25 May, arriving back in New York on 26 May (see S-7906). While en route to Cairo during a stop in Paris, the Secretary General learned that on this day President Nasser had announced his intention to reinstitute the blockade against Israel in the Straits of Tiran.
17 June 1967
30. The withdrawal of U.N.E.F. was completed. Details of the actual withdrawal and evacuation of U.N.E.F. are given in document A/6730/Add. 2.
Main Points at Issue
31. Comment is called for on some of the main points at issue even prior to the consideration of the background and basis for the stationing of U.N.E.F. on United Arab Republic territory.
The Causes of the Present Crisis
32. It has been said rather often in one way or another that the withdrawal of U.N.E.F. is a primary cause of the present crisis in the Near East. This is, of course, a superficial and oversimplified approach. As the Secretary General pointed out in his report of 26 May 1967 to the Security Council (S-7906), this view 'ignores the fact that the underlying basis for this and other crisis situations in the Near East is the continuing Arab-Israel conflict which has been present all along and of which the crisis situation created by the unexpected withdrawal of U.N.E.F. is the latest expression'. The Secretary General's report to the Security Council of 19 May 1967 (S-7896) described the various elements of the increasingly dangerous situation in the Near East prior to the decision of the Government of the United Arab Republic to terminate its consent for the presence of U.N.E.F. on its territory.
33. The United Nations Emergency Force served for more than 10 years as a highly valuable instrument in helping to maintain quiet along the line between Israel and the United Arab Republic. Its withdrawal revealed in all its depth and danger the undiminishing conflict between Israel and her Arab neighbours. The withdrawal also made immediately acute the problem of access for Israel to the Gulf of Aqaba through the Straits of Tiran - a problem which had been dormant for over ten years only because of the presence of U.N.E.F. But the presence of U.N.E.F. did not touch the basic problem of the Arab-Israel conflict - it merely isolated, immobilized and covered up certain aspects of that conflict. At any time in the last ten years either of the parties could have reactivated the conflict and if they had been determined to do so U.N.E.F.'s effectiveness would automatically have disappeared. When, in the context of the whole relationship of Israel with her Arab neighbours, the direct confrontation between Israel and the United Arab Republic was revived after a decade by the decision of the United Arab Republic to move its forces up to the line, U.N.E.F. at once lost all usefulness. In fact, its effectiveness as a buffer and as a presence had already vanished as can be seen from the chronology given above, even before the request for its withdrawal had been received by the Secretary General from the Government of the United Arab Republic. In recognizing the extreme seriousness of the situation thus created, its true cause, the continuing Arab-Israel conflict, must also he recognized. It is entirely unrealistic to maintain that that conflict could have been solved, or its consequences prevented, if a greater effort had been made to maintain U.N.E.F.'s presence in the area against the will of the Government of the United Arab Republic.
The Decision on U.N.E.F.'s Withdrawal
34. The decision to withdraw U.N.E.F. has been frequently characterized in various quarters as 'hasty', 'precipitous', and the like, even, indeed, to the extent of suggesting that it took President Nasser by surprise. The question of the withdrawal of U.N.E.F. is by no means a new one. In fact, it was the negotiations on this very question with the Government of Egypt which, after the establishment of U.N.E.F. by the General Assembly, delayed its arrival while it waited in a staging area at Capodichino airbase, Naples, Italy, for several days in November 1956. The Government of Egypt, understandably, did not wish to give permission for the arrival on its soil of an international force, unless it was assured that its sovereignty would be respected and a request for withdrawal of the force would be honoured. Over the years, in discussions with representatives of the United Arab Republic, the subject of the continued presence of U.N.E.F. has occasionally come up, and it was invariably taken for granted by United Arab Republic representatives that if their Government officially requested the withdrawal of U.N.E.F. the request would be honoured by the Secretary General. There is no record to indicate that this assumption was ever questioned. Thus, although the request came as a surprise, there was nothing new about the question of principle nor about the procedure to be followed by the Secretary General. It follows that the decision taken by him on 18 May 1967 to comply with the request for the withdrawal of the force was seen by him as the only reasonable and sound action that could be taken. The actual withdrawal itself, it should be recalled, was to be carried out in an orderly, dignified, deliberate and not precipitate manner over a period of several weeks. The first troops in fact left the area only on 29 May.
The Possibility of Delay
35. Opinions have also been frequently expressed that the decision to withdraw U.N.E.F. should have been delayed pending consultations, of various kinds, or that efforts should have been made to resist the United Arab Republic's request for U.N.E.F.'s withdrawal, or to bring pressure to bear on the Government of the United Arab Republic to reconsider its decision in this matter. In fact, as the chronology given above makes clear, the effectiveness of U.N.E.F. in the light of the movement of United Arab Republic troops up to the line and into Sharm el-Sheikh had already vanished before the request for withdrawal was received. Furthermore, the Government of the United Arab Republic had made it entirely clear to the Secretary General that an appeal for reconsideration of the withdrawal decision would encounter a firm rebuff and would be considered as an attempt to impose U.N.E.F. as an 'army of occupation'. Such a reaction, combined with the fact that U.N.E.F. positions on the line had already been effectively taken over by United Arab Republic troops in pursuit of their full right to move up to the line in their own territory, and a deep anxiety for the security of U.N.E.F. personnel should an effort be made to keep U.N.E.F. in position after its withdrawal had been requested, were powerful arguments in favour of complying with the United Arab Republic request, even supposing there had not been other overriding reasons for accepting it.
36. It has been said that the decision to withdraw U.N.E.F. precipitated other consequences such as the reinstitution of the blockade against Israel in the Straits of Tiran. As can be seen from the chronology, the U.N.E.F. positions at Sharm el-Sheikh on the Straits of Tiran (manned by 32 men in all) were in fact rendered ineffective by United Arab Republic troops before the request for withdrawal was received. It is also pertinent to note that, in response to a query from the Secretary General as to why the United Arab Republic had announced its reinstitution of the blockade in the Straits of Tiran while the Secretary General was actually en route to Cairo on 22 May, President Nasser explained that his Government's decision to resume the blockade had been taken some time before U Thant's departure and it was considered preferable to make the announcement before rather than after the Secretary General's visit to Cairo.
The Question of Consultations
37. It has been said also that there was not adequate consultation with the organs of the United Nations concerned or with the members before the decision was taken to withdraw the force. The Secretary General was, and is, firmly of the opinion that the decision for withdrawal of the force, on the request of the host Government, rested with the Secretary General after consultation with the Advisory Committee on U.N.E.F., which is the organ established by the General Assembly for consultation regarding such matters. This was made clear by Secretary General Hammarskjold, who took the following position on 26 February 1957 in reply to a question about the withdrawal of the force from Sharm el-Sheikh:
'An indicated procedure would be for the Secretary General to inform the Advisory Committee on the United Nations Emergency Force, which would determine whether the matter should be brought to the attention of the Assembly.' (Official Records of the General Assembly, Eleventh Session, annexes, agenda item 66, document A-3563, annex I, B, 2.)
The Secretary General consulted the Advisory Committee before replying to the letter of 18 May 1967 from the United Arab Republic requesting withdrawal. This consultation took place within a few hours after receipt of the United Arab Republic request, and the Advisory Committee was thus quickly informed of the decision which the Secretary General had in mind to convey in his reply to the Foreign Minister of the United Arab Republic. As indicated in the report to the Security Council of 26 May 1967:
'The Committee did not move, as it was its right to do under the terms of paragraph 9 of General Assembly resolution 1001 (ES-I to request the convening of the General Assembly on the situation which had arisen.' (S- 7906, Para. 4.)
38. Before consulting the Advisory Committee on U.N.E.F., the Secretary General had also consulted the permanent representatives of the seven countries providing the contingents of U.N.E.F., and informed them of his intentions. This, in fact, was more than was formally required of the Secretary General in the way of consultation.
39. Obviously, many Governments were concerned about the presence and functioning of U.N.E.F. and about the general situation in the area, but it would have been physically impossible to consult all of the interested representatives within any reasonable time. This was an emergency situation requiring urgent action. Moreover, it was perfectly clear that such consultations were sure to produce sharply divided counsel, even if they were limited to the permanent members of the Security Council. Such sharply divided advice would have complicated and exacerbated the situation, and, far from relieving the Secretary General of the responsibility for the decision to be taken, would have made the decision much more difficult to take.
40. It has been said that the final decision on the withdrawal of U.N.E.F. should have been taken only after consideration by the General Assembly. This position is not only incorrect but also unrealistic. In resolution 1000 (ES-I) the General Assembly established a United Nations command for an emergency international force. On the basis of that resolution the force was quickly recruited and its forward elements flown to the staging area at Naples. Thus, though established, it had to await the permission of the Government of Egypt to enter Egyptian territory. That permission was subsequently given by the Government of Egypt as a result of direct discussions between Secretary General Hammarskjold and President Nasser of Egypt. There is no official United Nations document on the basis of which any case could be made that there was any limitation on the authority of the Government of Egypt to rescind that consent at its pleasure, or which would indicate that the United Arab Republic had in any way surrendered its right to ask for and obtain at any time the removal of U.N.E.F. from its territory. This point is elaborated later in this report (see paras. 71-80 below).
41. As a practical matter, there would be little point in any case in taking such an issue to the General Assembly unless there would be reasonable certainty that that body could be expected expeditiously to reach a substantive decision. In the prevailing circumstances, the question could have been validly raised as to what decision other than the withdrawal of U.N.E.F. could have been reached by the Assembly once United Arab Republic consent for the continued presence of U.N.E.F. was withdrawn.
42. As regards the practical possibility of the Assembly considering the request for U.N.E.F.'s withdrawal, it is relevant to observe that the next regular session of the General Assembly was some four months off at the time the withdrawal request was made. The special session of the General Assembly which was meeting at the time could have considered the question, according to rule 19 of the Assembly's rules of procedure, only if two-thirds or 82 members voted for the inclusion of the item in the agenda. It is questionable, to say the least, whether the necessary support could have been mustered for such a controversial item. There could have been no emergency special session since the issue was not then before the Security Council, and therefore the condition of lack of unanimity did not exist.
43. As far as consultation with or action by the Security Council was concerned, the Secretary General reported to the Council on the situation leading up to and created by the withdrawal of U.N.E.F. on 19 May 1967 (S-7896). In that report he characterized the situation in the Near East as 'extremely menacing.' The Council met for the first time after this report on 24 May 1967, but took no action.
44. As has already been stated, the Advisory Committee did not make any move to bring the matter before the General Assembly, and no representative of any Member Government requested a meeting of either the Security Council or the General Assembly immediately following the Secretary General's reports (A-6730 and S-7896). In this situation, the Secretary General himself did not believe that any useful purpose would be served by his seeking a meeting of either organ, nor did he consider that there was basis for him to do so at that time. Furthermore, the information available to the Secretary General did not lead him to believe that either the General Assembly or the Security Council would have decided that U.N.E.F. should remain on United Arab Republic territory, by force if necessary, despite the request of the Government of the United Arab Republic that it should leave.
Practical Factors influencing the Decision
45. Since it is still contended in some quarters that the U.N.E.F. operation should somehow have continued after the consent of the Government of the United Arab Republic to its presence was withdrawn, it is necessary to consider the factors, quite apart from constitutional and legal considerations, which would have made such a course of action entirely impracticable.
46. The consent and active cooperation of the host country is essential to the effective operation and indeed, to the very existence, of any United Nations peacekeeping operation of the nature of U.N.E.F. The fact is that U.N.E.F. had been deployed on Egyptian and Egyptian-controlled territory for over 101/2 years with the consent and cooperation of the Government of the United Arab Republic. Although it was envisaged in pursuance of General Assembly Resolution 1125 (XI) of 2 February 1957 that the force would be stationed on both sides of the line, Israel exercised its sovereign rights to refuse the stationing of U.N.E.F. on its side, and the force throughout its existence was stationed on the United Arab Republic side of the line only.
47. In these circumstances, the true basis for U.N.E.F.'s effectiveness as a buffer and deterrent to infiltration was, throughout its existence, a voluntary undertaking by local United Arab Republic authorities with U.N.E.F. that United Arab Republic troops would respect a defined buffer zone along the entire length of the line in which only U.N.E.F would operate and from which United Arab Republic troops would be excluded. This undertaking was honoured although U.N.E.F. had no authority to challenge the right of United Arab Republic troops to be present anywhere on their own territory.
48. It may be pointed out in passing that over the years U.N.E.F. dealt with numerous infiltrators coming from the Israel as well as from the United Arab Republic side of the line. It would hardly be logical to take the position that because U.N.E.F. has successfully maintained quiet along the line for more than 10 years, owing in large measure to the cooperation of the United Arab Republic authorities, that this Government should then be told that it could not unilaterally seek the removal of the force and thus in effect be penalized for the long cooperation with the international community it had extended in the interest of peace.
49. There are other practical factors relating to the above-mentioned arrangement which are highly relevant to the withdrawal of U.N.E.F, First, once the United Arab Republic troops moved up to the line to place themselves in direct confrontation with the military forces of Israel, U.N.E.F. had, in fact, no further useful function. Secondly, if the force was no longer welcome, it could not as a practical matter remain in the United Arab Republic, since the friction which would almost inevitably have arisen with that Government, its armed forces and with the local population would have made the situation of the force both humiliating and untenable. It would even have been impossible to supply it. U.N.E.F. clearly had no mandate to try to stop United Arab Republic troops from moving freely about on their own territory. This was a peace-keeping force, not an enforcement action. Its effectiveness was based entirely on voluntary cooperation.
50. Quite apart from its position in the United Arab Republic, the request of that Government for U.N.E.F.'s withdrawal automatically set off a disintegration of the force, since two of the Governments providing contingents quickly let the Secretary General know that their contingents would be withdrawn, and there can be little doubt that other such notifications would not have been slow in coming if friction had been generated through an unwillingness to comply with the request for withdrawal.
51. For all the foregoing reasons, the operation, and even the continued existence of U.N.E.F. on United Arab Republic territory, after the withdrawal of United Arab Republic consent, would have been impossible, and any attempt to maintain the force there would without question have had disastrous consequences.
Legal and Constitutional Considerations and the Question of Consent for the Stationing of U.N.E.F. on United Arab Republic Territory
52. Legal and constitutional considerations were, of course, of great importance in determining the Secretary General's actions in relation to the request of the Government of the United Arab Republic for the withdrawal of U.N.E.F. Here again, a chronology of the relevant actions in 1956 and 1957 may be helpful.
53. 4 November 1956. The General Assembly, at its first emergency special session, in Resolution 998 (ES-I) requested 'the Secretary General to submit to it within 48 hours a plan for the setting up, with the consent of the nations concerned, of an emergency international United Nations Force to secure and supervise the cessation of hostilities...'
54. 5 November 1956. The General Assembly, in its Resolution 1000 (ES-I), established a United Nations Command for an emergency international force, and, inter alia, invited the Secretary General 'to take such administrative measures as may be necessary for the prompt execution of the actions envisaged in the present resolution.'
55. 7 November 1956. The General Assembly, by its Resolution 1001 (ES-I), inter alia, approved the guiding principles for the organization and functioning of the emergency international United Nations Force and authorized the Secretary General 'to take all other necessary administrative and executive action'.
56. 10 November 1956. Arrival of advance elements of U.N.E.F. at staging area in Naples.
57. 8-12 November 1956. Negotiations between Secretary General Hammarskjold and the Government of Egypt on entry of U.N.E.F. into Egypt.
58. 12 November 1956. Agreement on U.N.E.F. entry into Egypt announced and then postponed, pending clarification, until 14 November.
59. 15 November 1956. Arrival of advance elements of U.N.E.F. in Abu Suweir, Egypt.
60. 16 November to 18 November 1956. Negotiations between Secretary General Hammarskjold and President Nasser in Cairo on the presence and functioning of U.N.E.F. in Egypt and cooperation with Egyptian authorities, and conclusion of an 'aide-mémoire on the basis for the presence and functioning of U.N.E.F. in Egypt' (the so-called 'good faith accord'). (Ibid., Document A-3375, annex.)
61. 24 January 1957. The Secretary General in a report to the General Assembly (ibid., Document A-3512) suggested that the force should have units stationed on both sides of the armistice demarcation line and that certain measures should be taken in relation to Sharm el-Sheikh. On 2 February 1947, the General Assembly, by its Resolution 1125 (XI), noted with appreciation the Secretary General's report and considered that 'after full withdrawal of Israel from the Sharm el-Sheikh and Gaza areas, the scrupulous maintenance of the armistice agreement required the placing of the United Nations Emergency Force on the Egyptian-Israel armistice demarcation line and the implementation of other measures as proposed in the Secretary General's report, with due regard to the considerations set out therein with a view to assist in achieving situations conducive to the maintenance of peaceful conditions in the area.'
62. 7 March 1957. Arrival of U.N.E.F. in Gaza.
63. 8 March 1957. Arrival of U.N.E.F. elements at Sharrn el-Sheikh.
64. In general terms the consent of the host country to the presence of peacekeeping machinery is a basic prerequisite of all the United Nations peace-keeping operations. The question has been raised whether the United Arab Republic had the right to request unilaterally the withdrawal 'as soon as possible' of U.N.E.F. from its territory or whether there were limitations on its rights in this respect. An examination of the records of the first emergency special session and the eleventh session of the General Assembly is relevant to this question.
65. It is clear that the General Assembly and the Secretary General from the very beginning recognized, and in fact emphasized, the need for Egyptian consent in order that U.N.E.F. be stationed or operate on Egyptian territory. Thus, the initial Resolution 998 (ES-I) of 4 November 1956 requested the Secretary General to submit a plan for the setting up of an emergency force, 'with the consent of the nations concerned'. The 'nations concerned' obviously included Egypt (now the United Arab Republic), the three countries (France, Israel and the United Kingdom) whose armies were on Egyptian soil and the states contributing contingents to the force.
66. The Secretary General, in his report to the General Assembly of 6 November 1956, stated, inter alia:
'9. Functioning, as it would, on the basis of a decision reached under the terms of the Resolution 337 (V) "Uniting for Peace", the force, if established, would be limited in its operations to the extent that consent of the parties concerned is required under generally recognized international law. While the General Assembly is enabled to establish the force with the consent of those parties which contribute units to the force, it could not request the force to be stationed or operate on the territory of a given country without the consent of the Government of that country.' (Ibid., First Emergency Special Session, Annexes, agenda item 5, Document A/3302, para. 9.)
67. He noted that the foregoing did not exclude the possibility that the Security Council could use such a force within the wider margins provided under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter. He pointed out, however, that it would not be necessary to elaborate this point further, since no use of the force under Chapter VII, with the rights in relation to member states that this would entail, had been envisaged.
68. The General Assembly in its Resolution 1001 (ES-I) of 7 November 1956 expressed its approval of the guiding principles for the organization and functioning of the emergency international United Nations Force as expounded in paragraphs 6 to 9 of the Secretary General's report. This included the principle of consent embodied in paragraph 9.
69. The need for Egypt's consent was also stated as a condition or 'understanding' by some of the-states offering to contribute contingents to the force.
70. It was thus a basic legal principle arising from the nature of the force, and clearly understood by all concerned, that the consent of Egypt was a prerequisite to the stationing of U.N.E.F. on Egyptian territory, and it was a practical necessity as well in acquiring contingents for the force.
The 'Good Faith' Aide-Mémoire of 20 November 1956
71. There remains to be examined whether any commitments were made by Egypt which would limit its pre-existing right to withdraw its consent at any time that it chose to do so. The only basis for asserting such limitation could be the so-called 'good faith' aide-mémoire which was set out as an annex to a report of the Secretary General submitted to the General Assembly on 20 November 1956.
72. The Secretary General himself did not offer any interpretation of the 'good faith' aide-mémoire to the General Assembly or make any statement questioning the remarks made by the Foreign Minister of Egypt in the General Assembly the following week (see paragraph 74 below). It would appear, however, that in an exchange of cables lie had sought to obtain the express acknowledgement from Egypt that its consent to the presence of the force would not be withdrawn before the force had completed its task. Egypt did not accept this interpretation but held to the view that if its consent was no longer maintained the force should be withdrawn. Subsequent discussions between Mr. Hammarskjold and President Nasser resulted in the 'good faith' aide-mémoire.
73. An interpretative account of these negotiations made by Mr. Hammarskjold in a personal and private paper entitled 'aide-mémoire,' dated 5 August 1957, some eight and a half months after the discussions, has recently been made public by a private person who has a copy. It is understood that Mr. Hammarskjold often prepared private notes concerning significant events under the heading 'aide-mémoire.' This memorandum is not in any official record of the United Nations nor is it in any of the official files. The General Assembly, the Advisory Committee on U.N.E.F. and the Government of Egypt were not informed of its contents or existence. It is not an official paper and has no standing beyond being a purely private memorandum of unknown purpose or value, in which Secretary General Hammarskjold seems to record his own impressions and interpretations of his discussions with President Nasser. This paper, therefore, cannot affect in any way the basis for the presence of U.N.E.F. on the soil of the United Arab Republic as set out in the official documents, much less supersede those documents.
Position of Egypt
74. It seems clear that Egypt did not understand the 'good faith' aide-mémoire to involve any limitation on its right to withdraw its consent to the continued stationing and operation of U.N.E.F. on its territory. The Foreign Minister of Egypt, speaking in the General Assembly on 27 November 1956, one week after the publication of the 'good faith' aide-mémoire and three days following its approval by the General Assembly, said:
'We still believe that the General Assembly Resolution of 7 November 1956 still stands, together with its endorsement of the principle that the General Assembl y could not request the United Nations Emergency Force to be stationed or to operate on the territory of a given country without the consent of the Government of the country. This is the proper basis on which we believe, together with the overwhelming majority of this Assembly, that the United Nations Emergency Force could be stationed or could operate in Egypt. It is the only basis on which Egypt has given its consent in this respect.' (Official Records of the General Assembly, Eleventh Session, Plenary Meetings, 597th meeting, para. 48.)
He then added:
'... as must be abundantly clear, this force has gone to Egypt to help Egypt, with Egypt's consent; and no one here or elsewhere can reasonably or fairly say that a fire brigade, after putting out a fire, would be entitled or expected to claim the right of deciding not to leave the house.' (Ibid., para. 50.)
Analysis of the 'Task' of the Force
75. In the 'good faith' aide-mémoire, the Government of Egypt declared that, 'when exercising its sovereign rights on any matters concerning the presence and functioning of U.N.E.F., it will be guided, in good faith, by its acceptance of General Assembly Resolution 1000 (ES-I) of 5 November 1956.'
76. The United Nations in turn declared 'that the activities of U.N.E.F. will be guided, in good faith, by the task established for the force in the aforementioned Resolutions (100 (ES-I) and 997 (ES-I)); in particular, the United Nations, understanding this to correspond to the wishes of the Government of Egypt, reaffirms its willingness to maintain U.N.E.F. until its task is completed.'
77. It must be noted that, while Egypt undertook to be guided in good faith by its acceptance of General Assembly Resolution 1000 (ES-L), the United Nations also undertook to be guided in good faith by the task established for the force in Resolution 1000 (ES-I) and 997 (ES-I). Resolution 1000 (ES-I), to which the declaration of Egypt referred, established a United Nations Command for the force 'to secure and supervise the cessation of hostilities in accordance with all the terms' of Resolution 997 (ES-I). It must be recalled that at this time Israel forces had penetrated deeply into Egyptian territory and that forces of France and the United Kingdom were conducting military operations on Egyptian territory. Resolution 997 (ES-I) urged as a matter of priority that all parties agree to an immediate cease-fire, and halt the movement of military forces and arms into the area. It also urged the parties to the armistice agreements promptly to withdraw all forces behind the armistice lines, to desist from raids across the armistice lines, and to observe scrupulously the provisions of the armistice agreements. It further urged that, upon the cease-fire being effective, steps be taken to reopen the Suez Canal and restore secure freedom of navigation.
78. While the terms of Resolution 997 (ES-I) cover a considerable area, the emphasis in Resolution 1000 (ES-I) is on securing and supervising the cessation of hostilities. Moreover, on 6 November 1956 the Secretary General, in his second and final report on the plan for an emergency international United Nations Force, noted that 'the Assembly intends that the force should be of a temporary nature, the length of its assignment being determined by the needs arising out of the present conflict.' (Ibid., First Emergency Special Session, Annexes, agenda item 5, Document A-3302, para. 8.) Noting further the terms of Resolution 997 (ES-I), he added that 'the functions of the United Nations Force would be, when a cease-fire is being established, to enter Egyptian territory with the consent of the Egyptian Government, in order to help maintain quiet during and after the withdrawal of non-Egyptian troops, and to secure compliance with the other terms established in the Resolution of 2 November 1956' (997 (ES-I)). (Ibid., para. 12.)
79. In a cable delivered to Foreign Minister Fawzi on 9 or 10 November 1956, in reply to a request for clarification as to how long it was contemplated that the force should stay in the demarcation line area, the Secretary General stated: 'A definite reply is at present impossible but the emergency character of the force links it to the immediate crises envisaged in Resolution 2 November (997 (ES-I)) and its liquidation.' This point was confirmed in a further exchange of cables between the Secretary General and Dr. Fawzi on 14 November 1956.
80. The Foreign Minister of Egypt (Dr. Fawzi) gave his understanding of the task of the force in a statement to the General Assembly on 27 November 1956:
'Our clear understanding - and I am sure it is the clear understanding of the Assembly - is that this force is in Egypt only in relation to the present attack against Egypt by the United Kingdom, France and Israel, and for the purposes directly connected with the incursion of the invading forces into Egyptian territory. The United Nations Emergency Force is in Egypt, not as an occupation force, not as a replacement for the invaders, not to clear the Canal of obstructions, not to resolve any question or settle any problem, be it in relation to the Suez Canal, to Palestine or to any other matter; it is not there to infringe upon Egyptian sovereignty in any fashion or to any extent, but, on the contrary, to give expression to the determination of the United Nations to put an end to the aggression committed against Egypt and to the presence of the invading forces in Egyptian territory. ' (Ibid., Eleventh Session, Plenary Meetings, 597th meeting, para. 49.)
81. In letters dated 3 November 1956 addressed to the Secretary General, the representatives of both France and the United Kingdom had proposed very broad functions for U.N.E.F., stating on behalf of their Governments that military action could be stopped if the following conditions were met:
(a) Both the Egyptian and Israel Governments agree to accept a United Nations force to keep the peace.
(b) The United Nations decides to constitute and maintain such a force until an Arab-Israel peace settlement is reached and until satisfactory arrangements have been agreed in regard to the Suez Canal, both agreements to be guaranteed by the United Nations.
(c) In the meantime, until the United Nations force is constituted, both combatants agree to accept forthwith limited detachments of Anglo-French troops to be stationed between the combatants. (Ibid., First Emergency Special Session, Annexes, Documents A-3268 and A-3269.)
These broad functions for the force were not acceptable to the General Assembly, however, as was pointed out in telegrams dated 4 November 1956 from Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold to the Minister for Foreign Affairs of France and the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of the United Kingdom. (Ibid., Document A-3284, Annexes 2 and 4.)
82. Finally, it is obvious that the task referred to in the 'good faith' aide-mémoire could only be the task of the force as it had been defined in November 1956 when the understanding was concluded. The 'good faith' undertaking by the United Nations would preclude it from claiming that the Egyptian agreement was relevant or applicable to functions which the force was given at a much later date. The stationing of the force on the armistice demarcation line and at Sharm el-Sheikh was only determined in pursuance of General Assembly Resolution 1125 (XI) on 2 February 1957. The Secretary General, in his reports relating to this decision, made it clear that the further consent of Egypt was essential with respect to these new functions. (Ibid., Eleventh Session, Annexes, agenda item 66, Documents A-3512, para. 20, and A-3527, para. 5.) Consequently the understanding recorded in the 'good faith' aide-mémoire of 20 November 1956 could not have been, itself, a commitment with respect to functions only determined in February and March 1957. It is only these later tasks that the force had been performing during the last 10 years - tasks of serving as a buffer and deterring infiltrators which went considerably beyond those of securing and supervising the cessation of hostilities provided in the General Assembly resolutions and referred to in the 'good faith' aide-mémoire.
The Stationing of U.N.E.F. on the Armistice Demarcation Line and at Sharm el-Sheikh
83. There remains to examine whether Egypt made further commitments with respect to the stationing of the force on the armistice demarcation line and at Shann el-Sheikh. Israel, of course, sought to obtain such commitments, particularly with respect to the area around Sharm el-Sheikh.
84. For example, in an aide-mémoire of 4 February 1957 (ibid., Document A-3527, annex I), Israel sought clarification as to whether units of the United Nations Emergency Force would be stationed along the western shore of the Gulf of Aqaba in order to act as a restraint against hostile acts, and would remain so deployed until another effective means was agreed upon between the parties concerned for ensuring permanent freedom of navigation and the absence of belligerent acts in the Straits of Tiran and the Gulf of Aqaba. The Secretary General pointed out that such 'clarification' would require 'Egyptian consent.' He stated:
'The second of the points in the Israel aide-mémoire requests a "clarification" which, in view of the position of the General Assembly, could go beyond what was stated in the last report only after negotiation with Egypt. This follows from the statements in the debate in the General Assembly, and the report on which it was based, which makes it clear that the stationing of the force at Sharm el-Sheikh, under such terms as those mentioned in the question posed by Israel, would require Egyptian consent. ' (Ibid., Document A-3527, para. 5.)
85. It is clear from the record that Egypt did not give its consent to Israel's proposition. The Secretary General's report of 8 March 1957 (ibid., document A-3568) recorded 'arrangements for the complete and unconditional withdrawal of Israel in accordance with the decision of the General Assembly'. There is no agreement on the part of Egypt to forgo its rights with respect to the granting or withdrawing of its consent to the continued stationing of the force on its territory. On the contrary, at the 667th plenary meeting of the General Assembly on 4 March 1957, the Foreign Minister of Egypt stated:
'At our previous meeting I stated that the Assembly was unanimous in expecting full and honest implementation of its resolutions calling for immediate and unconditional withdrawal by Israel. I continue to submit to the Assembly that this position - which is the only position the Assembly can possibly take - remains intact and entire. Nothing said by anyone here or elsewhere could shake this fact or detract from its reality and its validity, nor could it affect the fullness and the lawfulness of Egypt's rights and those of the Arab people of the Gaza Strip.' (Ibid., Eleventh Session, Plenary Meetings, 667th meeting, para 240.)
86. The Foreign Minister of Israel in her statement at the 666th meeting of the General Assembly, on I March 1957, asserted that an assurance had been given that any proposal for the withdrawal of U.N.E.F. from the Gulf of Aqaba area would come first to the Advisory Committee on U.N.E.F. (see paragraphs 95-98 below).
Question of the Stationing of U.N.E.F. on Both Sides of the Armistice Demarcation Line
87. Another point having significance with respect to the undertakings of Egypt is the question of the stationing of U.N.E.F. on both sides of the armistice demarcation line. The Secretary General, in his report on 24 January 1957 to the General Assembly (ibid., Eleventh Session, Annexes, agenda item 66, Document A-3512), suggested that the force should have units stationed also on the Israel side of the armistice demarcation line. In particular, he suggested that units of the force should at least be stationed in the El Auja demilitarized zone. (Article VIII of the Egyptian-Israel General Armistice Agreement provides, inter alia, that an area comprising the village of El Auja and vicinity, as defined in the article, shall be demilitarized and that both Egyptian and Israel armed forces shall be totally excluded therefrom. The article further provides that on the Egyptian side of the frontier, facing the El Auja area, no Egyptian defensive positions shall be closer to El Auja than El Qouseima and Abou Aoueigila which had been occupied by the armed forces of Israel.) He indicated that if El Auja were demilitarized in accordance with the Armistice Agreement and units of U.N.E.F. were stationed there, a condition of reciprocity would be the Egyptian assurance that Egyptian forces would not take up positions in the area in contravention of the Armistice Agreement. (Official Records of the General Assembly, Eleventh Session, Annexes, agenda item 66, Document A-3512, paras. 15-22.) However, Israel forces were never withdrawn from El Auja and U.N.E.F. was not accepted at any point on the Israel side of the line.
88. Following the Secretary General's report, the General Assembly on 2 February 1957 adopted Resolution 1125 (XI), in which it noted the report with appreciation and considered:
'... that, after withdrawal of Israel from the Sharm el-Sheikh and Gaza areas, the scrupulous maintenance of the Armistice Agreement requires the placing of the United Nations Emergency Force on the Egyptian-Israel armistice demarcation line and the implementation of other measures as proposed in the Secretary General's report, with due regard to the considerations set out therein with a view to assist in achieving situations conducive to the maintenance of peaceful conditions in the area.'
89. On 11 February 1957, the Secretary General stated in a report to the General Assembly that, in the light of the implication of Israel's question concerning the stationing of U.N.E.F. at Shann el-Sheikh (see paragraph 84 above), he 'considered it important ... to learn whether Israel itself, in principle, consents to a stationing of U.N.E.F. units on its territory in implementation of the functions established for the force in the basic decisions and noted in Resolution 1125 (XI), where it was indicated that the force should be placed "on the Egyptian-Israel armistice demarcation line." ' (Ibid., Document A-3527, para. 5.) No affirmative response was ever received from Israel. In fact, already on 7 November 1956 the Prime Minister of Israel, Mr. Ben-Gurion, in a speech to the Knesset, stated, inter alia, 'On no account will Israel agree to the stationing of a foreign force, no matter how called, in her territory or in any of the territories occupied by her.' In a note to correspondents of 12 April 1957 a 'United Nations spokesman' stated:
'Final arrangements for the U.N.E.F. will have to wait for the response of the Government of Israel to the request by the General Assembly that the force be deployed also on the Israeli side of the armistice demarcation line.'
90. In a report dated 9 October 1957 to the 12th session of the General Assembly (ibid., Twelfth Session, Annexes, agenda item 65, Document A-3694, para. 15), the Secretary General stated:
'Resolution 1125 (XI) calls for placing the Force "on the Egyptian-Israel armistice demarcation line", but no stationing of U.N.E.F. on the Israel side has occurred to date through lack of consent by Israel.'
91. In the light of Israel's persistent refusal to consent to the stationing and operation of U.N.E.F. on its side of the line in spite of General Assembly Resolution 1125 (XI) of 2 February 1957 and the efforts of the Secretary General, it is even less possible to consider that Egypt's 'good faith' declaration made in November 1956 could constitute a limitation of its rights with respect to the continued stationing and operation of U.N.E.F. on Egyptian territory in accordance with the Resolution of 2 February 1957.
92. The representative of Israel stated at the 592nd meeting of the General Assembly, on 23 November 1956:
'If we were to accept one of the proposals made here - namely that the force should separate Egyptian and Israel troops for as long as Egypt thought it convenient and should then be withdrawn on Egypt's unilateral request - we would reach a reduction to absurdity. Egypt would then be in a position to build up, behind the screen of this force, its full military preparations and, when it felt that those military preparations had reached their desired climax, to dismiss the United Nations Emergency Force and to stand again in close contact and proximity with the territory of Israel. This reduction to absurdity proves how impossible it is to accept in any matter affecting the composition or the functions of the force the policies of the Egyptian Government as the sole or even the decisive criterion.' (Ibid., Eleventh Session, Plenary Meetings, 592nd meeting, para. 131.)
93. The answer to this problem which is to be found in Resolution 1125 (XI) of 2 February 1957 is not in the form of a binding commitment by Egypt which the record shows was never given, but in the proposal that the force should be stationed on both sides of the line. Israel in the exercise of its sovereign right did not give its consent to the stationing of U.N.E.F. on its territory and Egypt did not forgo its sovereign right to withdraw its consent at any time.
Role of the U.N.E.F. Advisory Committee
94. General Assembly Resolution 1001 (ES-I) of 7 November 1956, by which the Assembly approved the guiding principles for the organization and functioning of U.N.E.F., established an Advisory Committee on U.N.E.F. under the chairmanship of the Secretary General. The Assembly decided that the Advisory Committee, in the performance of its duties, should be empowered to request, through the usual procedures, the convening of the General Assembly and to report to the Assembly whenever matters arose which, in its opinion, were of such urgency and importance as to require consideration by the General Assembly itself.
95. The memorandum of important points in the discussion between the representative of Israel and the Secretary General on 25 February 1957 recorded the following question raised by the representative of Israel:
'In connection with the duration of U.N.E.F.'s deployment in the Sharm el Sheikh area, would the Secretary General give notice to the General Assembly of the United Nations before U.N.E.F. would be withdrawn from the area, with or without Egyptian insistence, or before the Secretary General would agree to its withdrawal?' (Ibid., Eleventh Session, Annexes, agenda item 66, Document A-3563, annex I, A, 2.)
96. The response of the Secretary General was recorded as follows:
'On the question of notification to the General Assembly, the Secretary General wanted to state his view at a later meeting. An indicated procedure would be for the Secretary General to inform the Advisory Committee on the United Nations Emergency Force, which would determine whether the matter should be brought to the attention of the Assembly.' (Ibid., annex I, B. 2.)
97. On 1 March 1957 the Foreign Minister of Israel stated at the 666th plenary meeting of the General Assembly:
'My Government has noted the assurance embodied in the Secretary General's note of 26 February 1957 (A-3363, annex) that any proposal for the withdrawal of the United Nations Emergency Force from the Gulf of Aqaba area would first come to the Advisory Committee on the United Nations Emergency Force, which represents the General Assembly in the implementation of its Resolution 997 (ES-I) of 2 November 1956. This procedure will give the General Assembly an opportunity to ensure that no precipitate changes are made which would have the effect of increasing the possibility of belligerent acts.' (Ibid., Eleventh Session, Plenary Meetings, 666th meeting, para. 8.)
98. In fact, the 25 February 1957 memorandum does not go as far as the interpretation given by the Foreign Minister of Israel. In any event, however, it gives no indication of any commitment by Egypt, and so far as the Secretary General is concerned it only indicates that a procedure would be for the Secretary General to inform the Advisory Committee which would determine whether the matter should be brought to the attention of the General Assembly. This was also the procedure provided in General Assembly Resolution 1001 (ES-I). It was, furthermore, the procedure followed by the Secretary General on the withdrawal of U.N.E.F.
99. A partial explanation of the misunderstanding about the withdrawal of U.N.E.F. is an evident failure to appreciate the essentially fragile nature of the basis for U.N.E.F.'s operation throughout its existence. U.N.E.F. in functioning depended completely on the voluntary cooperation of the host Government. Its basis of existence was the willingness of governments to provide contingents to serve under an international command and at a minimum of cost to the United Nations. It was a symbolic force, small in size, with only 3,400 men, of whom 1,800 were available to police a line of 295 miles at the time of its withdrawal. It was equipped with light weapons only. It had no mandate of any kind to open fire except in the last resort in self-defence. It had no formal mandate to exercise any authority in the area in which it was stationed. In recent years it experienced an increasingly uncertain basis of financial support, which in turn gave rise to strong annual pressures for reduction in its strength. Its remarkable success for more than a decade, despite these practical weaknesses, may have led to wrong conclusions about its nature, but it was also pointed the way to a unique means of contributing significantly to international peace-keeping.
Cable Containing Instructions for the Withdrawal of U.N.E.F. Sent by the Secretary General to the Commander of the U.N.E.F. on 18 May 1967, at 2230 Hours New York Time
The following instructions are to be put in effect by you as of date and time of their receipt and shall remain operative until and unless new instructions are sent by me.
1. U.N.E.F. is being withdrawn because the consent of the Government of the United Arab Republic for its continued deployment on United Arab Republic territory and United Arab Republic-controlled territory has been rescinded.
2. Date of the commencement of the withdrawal of U.N.E.F. will be 19 May when the Secretary General's response to the request for withdrawal will be received in Cairo by the Government of the United Arab Republic, when also the General Assembly will be informed of the action taken and the action will become public knowledge.
3. The withdrawal of U.N.E.F. is to be orderly and must be carried out with dignity befitting a force which has contributed greatly to the maintenance of quiet and peace in the area of its deployment and has earned widespread admiration.
4. The force does not cease to exist or to lose its status or any of its entitlements, privileges and immunities until all of its elements have departed from the area of its operation.
5. It will be a practical fact that must be reckoned with by the Commander that as of the date of the announcement of its withdrawal the force will no longer be able to carry out its established function as a buffer and as a deterrent to infiltration. Its duties, therefore, after 19 May and until all elements have been withdrawn, will be entirely nominal and concerned primarily with devising arrangements and implementation of arrangements for withdrawal and the morale of the personnel.
6. The force, of course, will remain under the exclusive command of its United Nations Commander and is to take no orders from any other source, whether United Arab Republic or national.
7. The Commander, his headquarters staff and the contingent commanders shall take every reasonable precaution to ensure the continuance of good relations with the local authorities and the local population.
8. In this regard, it should be made entirely clear by the Commander to the officers and other ranks in the force that there is no discredit of the force in this withdrawal and no humiliation involved for the reason that the force has operated very successfully and with, on the whole, cooperation from the Government on the territory of an independent sovereign State for over 10 years, which is a very long time; and, moreover, the reasons for the termination of the operation are of an overriding political nature, having no relation whatsoever to the performance of the force in the discharge of its duties.
9. The Commander and subordinate officers must do their utmost to avoid any resort to the use of arms and any clash with the forces of the United Arab Republic or with the local civilian population.
10. A small working team will be sent from headquarters by the Secretary General to assist in the arrangements for, and effectuation of, the withdrawal.
11. The Commander shall take all necessary steps to protect United Nations installations, properties and stores during the period of withdrawal.
12. If necessary, a small detail of personnel of the force or preferably of United Nations security officers will be maintained as long as necessary for the protection of United Nations properties pending their ultimate disposition.
13. U.N.E.F. aircraft will continue flights as necessary in connection with the withdrawal arrangements but observation flights will be discontinued immediately.
14. Elements of the force now deployed along the line will be first removed from the line, the IF (international frontier) and ADL (armistice demarcation line), including Sharm el-Sheikh, to their camps and progressively to central staging.
15. The pace of the withdrawal will of course depend upon the availability of transport by air, sea and ground to Port Said. The priority in withdrawal should of course be personnel and their personal arms and equipment first, followed by contingent stores and equipment.
16. We must proceed on the assumption that U.N.E.F. will have full cooperation of United Arab Republic authorities on all aspects of evacuation, and to this end a request will be made by me to the United Arab Republic Government through their Mission here.
17. As early as possible the Commander of U.N.E.F. should prepare and transmit to the Secretary General a plan and schedule for the evacuation of troops and their equipment.
18. Preparation of the draft of the sections of the annual report by the Secretary General to the General Assembly should be undertaken and, to the extent possible, completed during the period of the withdrawal.
19. In the interests of the force itself and the United Nations, every possible measure should be taken to ensure against public comments or comments likely to become public on the withdrawal, the reasons for it and reactions to it.
Source: Israeli Foreign Ministry.