• Short Summary

    President Sadat of Egypt has raised hopes of reopening the Suez Canal in the near future.

  • Description

    President Sadat of Egypt has raised hopes of reopening the Suez Canal in the near future. The Canal has been closed since the Arab-Israeli war of June 1967.

    Israel's reaction to the proposal has so far been negative. Mrs. Meir declared that as long as Egypt continued to threaten Israel with hostilities, Israeli forces would not consider withdrawing from the occupied Suez east bank.

    The Egyptian proposal to reopen the canal would greatly benefit the Soviet Union, the United States and the West European powers, but all have been careful to make little direct comment.

    SYNOPSIS: The Suez Canal was opened in 1869, after a 10-year construction programme supervised by a Frenchman, staffed with Egyptian labour, and financed by a French loan. Its construction coincided with the first steam ships, drastically cutting voyages between Europe and the Far East. By the 1950's the Canal was handling nearly 116 million tone of shipping a year.

    In 1956 however, Egypt's President Nasser nationalised the Canal, taking over without warning from the Suez Canal Company. As a result of long experience in the actual operation of the canal by Egyptian engineers, technicians, and shore staff -- the take-over was smooth, and the canal was completely in Egyptian control.

    In October of that year, the Israeli army advanced on and occupied the Sinai Peninsula in answer to Egyptian Commando raids into its territory. Britain delivered an ultimatum to both sides and when Egypt refused to comply, enlisted French aid and moved its forces in on the Suez area. The United Nations tabled a censure on both France and Britain and then moved a peace-keeping force into the Canal area. But the damage to the canal was complete. Many ships had been sunk while in the canal, and massive aid was required to clear it before normal shipping could pass through.

    Financial aid came from the World Bank and the technical assistance from the United Nations.

    In 1967 hostilities between Egypt and Israel climaxed in the Arab-Israeli war. The battle was fought in the Sinai desert and ended on the banks of the Canal. The waterway itself was heavily bombed. this time its closure was more permanent. Besides the increased cost of re-routing ships around South Africa, shipping companies have had to incur the cost of keeping 14 ships trapped since 1967 in the Bitter Lakes. Meanwhile, the canal still remains closed and until peace settlements can be agreed on between Israel and Egypt, no work will be done towards re-opening it.

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    Reuters - Source to be Verified
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    Available on request
    Black & White
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