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Thursday, 11 October 1956

Mr CASEY (Minister for External Affairs) - Yes, there are one or two things that I think the right honorable gentleman and the House might care to know. The Security Council met in closed session and then adjourned for 48 hours to allow private discussions between the Foreign Ministers of the United Kingdom, France and Egypt. According to our information, those private discussions are still continuing. There are two matters in particular about which we received information yesterday and about which I think the House might be interested to hear briefly. The first is the gist of a proposal that was made by Mr. Shepilov, the Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union, on the day before yesterday Australian time; in which he put forward four or five bases for an agreement. They were these: There should be freedom of passage through the canal for all ships on the basis of equality in regard to navigational and commercial tolls; Egypt should undertake to ensure freedom of passage, security, maintenance and improvement of the canal and submit regular information to the United Nations on the functioning of the canal; all parties to agree not to commit acts which might infringe the inviolability of the canal or inflict material damage; the establishment of appropriate forms of co-operation between Egypt and the users; there should be established a consultative body representing the interests of the users, and a committee, as he described it, could also be instructed to draw up a draft convention to replace the 1888 convention and prepare for an international conference to be attended by all States using the canal to approve the draft.

On the same day Mr. Dulles, the American Secretary of State, made a statement, the main points of which were as follows: It was the duty of the United Nations to seek a peaceful settlement in accordance with justice and international law; the conference in London and the Suez Canal users conference were evidence of the desire of the users for a peaceful settlement; the 1888 convention guaranteed for all time the international character of the canal, so that the efforts of the users' association to secure their own rights was not in violation of Egyptian sovereignty; and the 18-power proposals were a means of just settlement. He rejected the Soviet proposal to refer the matter to a committee, but # he thought that the Egyptian suggestion, which was made just prior to the Russian suggestion, for a negotiating body was more constructive. He also thought that if Egypt accepted the principle that the canal was not to be used by any one country as an instrument of national policy, that all remaining problems were capable of solution. Finally, he said that the United Kingdom-French resolution embodied the basic principles for a settlement, and that the United States supported it and stood for it. Those are the only two speeches that 1 think the honorable member would care to know about. The private discussions - the to and fro private discussions between the principal protagonists - are still in progress, after which, I presume from the telegrams that we have had, the closed session of the Security Council will be continued.

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