Views on The Suez Canal from Historical, Political, Legal, and Economic Perspectives
The council organized a lecture given by Ambassador Dr. Mounir Zahran, Chairman of the council, on November 18th , 2019. It was attended by a number of ambassadors, experts, and academics of the council to address the topic of “Views on the Suez canal from historical, political, legal, and economic perspectives”. This event was moderated by Ambassador/ Dr. Ezzat Saad, Director of the Council. This lecture was organized within the framework of celebrating the 150th anniversary of Suez Canal’s opening to international navigation.
During the lecture, Ambassador Zahran highlighted the history of dredging the old canal and who was behind that idea. In addition, he referred to the period that followed the opening of the canal when Egypt, after making great sacrifices to dig the canal and having disputes with de Lesseps, sought arbitration to resolve such issues. The result of the arbitration was to abolish the system of corvée labour, and to cede the territory that had been previously granted to the company by the Khedive in return for compensation, as well as determining the appropriate compensation in exchange for return of land. In addition, the company would cease to fulfill its obligations to labors with respect to wages and food quota. Moreover, the canal dredging concession would begin from the date of its opening to navigation and not from the date of the company’s possession of land allocated to both of the salt water and fresh water canals; this led most observers to view the result of the arbitration as causing injustice and prejudice to Egypt’s interests, in favour of the company.
This was followed by reviewing the phases of dredging the canal till its opening and the costs of which amounted to about 40 billion Pounds Sterling (the Egyptian Pound was equivalent to or higher than its Sterling counterpart); as well as the Egyptian rejection to the support given by the British government, representing the occupation authority in Egypt, for the Suez Canal Company’s request to extend the concession period, which was scheduled to expire in 1968, for another 40 years, which was followed by announcing the nationalization of the Suez Canal in 1956; and the grave losses suffered by the Egyptian people after that announcement. Ambassador Mounir Zahran affirmed that this was a prelude to and a cause of the 1967 setback (Naksa), in addition to president Abdel Nasser’s demand for the withdrawal of the United Nations Emergency force (UNEF) from Sinai, which was previously approved by Egypt in 1956 in return for Israel’s withdrawal from Sinai, and imposing a blockade on Israeli navigation in the Gulf of Aqaba. This led some to believe that if Egypt would have waited till expiry of the Suez Canal Company’s concession, Egypt could have restored the Suez Canal, had not to pay compensation for the nationalization, would have avoided the tripartite aggression without losses, and then the 1967 war would have been avoided, especially since the nationalization announcement resulted in freezing of Egyptian balances in American, French, and British banks and compensating the company’s shareholders through buying the shares of some and paying a compensation of USD81.2 million to others.
In conclusion of the lecture, Ambassador Zahran reviewed the New Suez Canal and the efforts made within the framework of developing the navigation canal as well as the Economic Zone of the Suez Canal and how would that be of great benefit to Egypt.