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Tuesday, 21 May 1957

Mr CASEY (Minister for External Affairs) - Yes. The Security Council began meetings yesterday in New York, at the instance of the Government of France, to discuss the Suez Canal situation. I may say that the French Government has brought it about that French commercial shipping will not use the canal - at present, at any rate. As honorable members know, the present regime - which we hope is a temporary, ad hoc regime - for the use of the canal is a unilateral regime, imposed by Egypt, which does not conform to the six principles that were unanimously accepted by the Security Council in October last. It falls far short of them. The French Government, together with a number of other governments, including Australia, does not regard the present unilateral arrangement for the use of the Suez Canal as in any way satisfactory. It is very much hoped that it is not in any way permanent. I understand that that will be the burden of the representations of the French Government, which will have a lot of support, including that of Australia, on the Security Council at this group of council meetings in New York. After all, the foreign Minister of Egypt was present at the Security Council meetings in October last when the six principles were unanimously adopted, and presumably he represented his government and accepted those principles. As has been said before, good faith is essential in international dealings, just as it is between individuals. In fact, its importance in international affairs is infinitely greater than in dealings between individuals. That essential principle is at stake in the discussions now proceeding in the Security Council.

So far as the Gulf of Aqaba is concerned, all I can say is that there has been persistent propaganda, very largely from Egyptian sources, which has been pointedly directed towards denying Israeli shipping free and innocent passage through the Gulf of Aqaba. One hopes that that, too, is only temporary, and that the position will be put beyond doubt by some international agreement or instrument so that the State of Israel would have full, free and fair access, along with all other countries, to the Gulf of Aqaba.

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