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Israel's Complaint to the Security Council on the Suez Canal Blockade, S/2241

(July 11, 1951)

In the summer of 1951, Israel protested to the Security Council against the Suez Canal blockade which was contrary to the armistice agreement, the 1888 Constantinople Convention, and based, according to Egypt, on the continuing state of war between Egypt and Israel. Text of the protest reads:

I have the honour to request that the following item be placed on the agenda of the Security Council for urgent discussion: "Restrictions imposed by Egypt on the passage of ships through the Suez Canal."

In contravention of international law, of the Suez Canal Convention (1888) and of the Egyptian-Israel General Armistice Agreement, the Government of Egypt continues to detain, visit and search ships seeking to pass through the Suez Canal, on the grounds that their cargoes are destined for Israel. This practice has been carried out for over two years, in defiance of the specific appeals and requests of United Nations representatives charged with the negotiation and implementation of the General Armistice Agreement. Thus, on 4 August 1949, Mr. Ralph J. Bunche, who had represented tile United Nations in the armistice talks, interpreted the armistice agreement as follows [433rd meeting]:

"There should be free movement for legitimate shipping, and no vestiges of the wartime blockade should be allowed to remain as they are inconsistent with both the letter and the spirit of the armistice agreements. "

In the light of this authoritative ruling, the Security Council [435th meeting] adopted a resolution on 11 August 1949 [S/1367calling upon the parties to observe the Armistice Agreements and reminding them that these agreements "include firm pledges against any further acts of hostility between the parties".

Throughout the ensuing period the Government of Israel has patiently sought redress through the machinery established by the armistice agreement. On 17 November 1950, the Security Council [524th meeting] referred the matter back to the Chief of Staff of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization [S/1907]. These efforts by United Nations organs to reach a solution culminated in a meeting of the Special Committee on the Egyptian-Israel General Armistice Agreement held on 12 June 1951 under the chairmanship of Lieut. General William E. Riley.

General Riley's observations have been submitted to the Security Council in document S/2194. It will be noted that the United Nations Chief of Staff characterizes the Egyptian blockade as "an aggressive action", and "a hostile act". He concludes: "that the action of the Egyptian authorities in this instance is, in my view, entirely contrary to the spirit of the General Armistice Agreement and does, in fact, jeopardize its effective functioning".

Accordingly, on 12 June, General Riley directed "a strong request" to Egypt to "desist from the present practice of interfering with goods destined for Israel through the Suez Canal".

In transmitting these conclusions, the United Nations Chief of Staff goes on to say:

"It must be clear, and it certainly is to me, that the question cannot rest here. Either the Egyptian Government must, in the spirit of the General Armistice Agreement, relax the practice of interference with the passage of goods destined for Israel through the Suez Canal, or the question must be referrea to some higher competent authority such as the Security Council or the International Court of Justice. "

Accordingly, the Government of Israel now brings the question before the Security Council as a matter jeopardizing the armistice agreement and endangering the peace and security of the Middle East. The Egyptian action also adversely affects the economic life of the region, and particularly its oil-refining capacity.

In the whole record of the armistice system there is no other instance of an aggressive and hostile practice being continued in the face of urgent condemnation by the authorized United Nations representatives. Moreover, the Security Council has never yet failed to endorse and confirm the requests of the Chief of Staff in any case where the effective functioning of the armistice system has been jeopardized. Thus, if the Security Council were not to act, it is apparent that injury would be done to the strength and equity of the armistice system and to the authority of United Nations officers charged with supervising the armistice.

In my Government's view, action by the Security Council is also necessary in order to make clear that the United Nations does not acquiesce in this flagrant violation of international law. The Powers most vitally interested in the freedom of the seas have individually condemned these blockade practices, and it would be fitting for the United Nations to give effective support to so vital a principle of world peace and international cooperation. Moreover, there is disquieting evidence that if the blockade practice is not checked at Suez it will become increasingly extended to other waters.

In accordance with Article 31 of the Charter, I have the honour to request the opportunity of participating without vote in the discussion of this question in the Security Council.

(Signed) Abba Eban
Permanent Representative of Israel
to the United Nations

Source: Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs