No. 366
Memorandum of Conversation, by the Acting Director of the Office of Greek, Turkish, and Iranian Affairs (Baxter)



  • Cyprus


  • Mr. Athanase G. Politis, Greek Ambassador
  • Mr. Henry A. Byroade, Assistant Secretary, NEA
  • Mr. William O. Baxter, Acting Director, GTI

The Greek Ambassador called today at his request “merely to inform” the Department of the present status of the Cyprus question. He reviewed some of the developments of the past few months. Last September when Eden was convalescing in Athens, Papagos, at the personal suggestion of the British Ambassador, tried to bring up this subject with Eden on a completely informal and friendly basis. He was told brusquely that it was a closed question as far as the British were concerned and that it could not be discussed. Papagos was naturally offended by this attitude and as a result addressed a note to the British on November [October] 15 suggesting bilateral talks.1 This note has been completely ignored. The intransigent attitude of the British in refusing even to discuss on any basis a problem so close to the hearts of the Greeks made it impossible later for Papagos to accept an invitation to visit London. As recently as March 15 Eden again made the same blunt statement with regard to Cyprus in the House of Commons as he had made on previous occasions.2 This had dismayed the Greek Government and the Greek public, coming as it did at a time when Archbishop [Page 686] Makarios was seeing Government officials in Athens on this subject and when even British newspapers were suggesting that the British Government should adopt a more flexible attitude. Its only effect was to further inflame heated feelings. Mr. Byroade agreed that Eden’s remark had had an unfortunate effect.

Mr. Byroade then explained that the Cyprus question had given him serious concern of late, so much, in fact, that Ambassador Cannon has been instructed to approach the Greek Government in Athens officially to transmit our strong hope that Greece will refrain from raising the Cyprus question at the next meeting of the General Assembly.3 This may seem a difficult request to make of one of our best friends, but it is our firm opinion that no one but our enemies could profit by the airing of this question at a time when we have so many grave international problems requiring the fullest cooperation among the Western nations. It would give the Soviet Union and its satellites a tailor-made opportunity to achieve one of their main present objectives, which is to create dissension among NATO partners in an attempt to destroy European unity. It would also reverse the trend toward closer relationships in the Aegean area which has been so encouraging to us in the past year. Although the US would regret ever being in a position of opposing Greece on any question, Mr. Byroade felt he would be less than frank if he did not point out that we cannot offer the Greek Government any encouragement in expecting our support if it brings this question before the United Nations. We have noted Marshal Papagos’ moderate approach to this problem, and we earnestly hope that he will find it possible to discourage popular agitation and to reconsider the advisability of instituting any UN action.

The Greek Ambassador indicated that he agreed completely with our analysis of the results of raising the Cyprus question in the UN and that his Government felt the same way. He stated more than once that it was the firm desire of his Government not to put this question to the UN, but that the pressures were so strong that it was hard to see how Greece could resist some positive action in the absence of any modification of the intransigent British stand. The Ambassador repeated what many other Greek officials have frequently said, “If the British would only agree to talk to us in a friendly fashion and admit that there is a problem between us.” As in the case of other officials, he did not indicate what would be the terms of reference of such talks but did imply that some public indication of a British willingness to discuss the matter might make [Page 687] it possible for the Greek Government to postpone to some indefinite future time the formal raising of this question.

  1. Not printed. (781.00/10–2353)
  2. H.C. Debs., 5th series, vol. 525, col. 74.
  3. These instructions were transmitted to Cannon by telegram 2901 to Athens, supra.