No. 370
Memorandum of Conversation, by the Deputy Director of the Office of Greek, Turkish, and Iranian Affairs (Baxter)



  • Cyprus


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

The Greek Ambassador called at his request to urge, as he said he had done last week in a conversation with Mr. Merchant,1 that the US use its good offices during the forthcoming visit of Churchill and Eden2 to discuss with them the Cyprus question in the hope of convincing the British to make some conciliatory move which would make it possible for the Greek Government not to raise this problem in the UN General Assembly next September.

After a recapitulation of the familiar arguments on both sides, Mr. Byroade expressed the opinion that, at this time when the British feel that we are partly responsible for their being pushed out of areas where they were once firmly established, it would be virtually impossible to approach Churchill on the basis of any idea that British sovereignty over Cyprus should be relinquished. The Greek Ambassador reiterated his belief that the solution of the problem could be postponed if the British would only agree now to recognize the existence of a question of mutual Greek-British interest and to demonstrate a willingness to discuss it. In this connection he was asked whether he thought his Government could agree to conversations which would not take up the sovereignty issue. It was suggested that perhaps the British, if they are willing to institute genuine constitutional and internal governmental reforms in Cyprus, might publicly recognize a legitimate Greek interest in the welfare of the Cypriots because of cultural, ethnic and religious ties. This might give an opportunity for British-Greek conversations, thereby meeting the Greek desideratum for bilateral discussions. The Ambassador was also asked whether, in such an event, he believed his Government would have sufficient influence with the Cypriots and the Ethnarchy to urge them to cooperate with the British and to accept a more active interest in local government as a step in the direction of their ultimate objectives. If this were possible, [Page 692] it would have the advantage of isolating the Communists, who would, of course, oppose any sort of concession to “wicked British imperialism.” At the present time the Ethnarchy has the embarrassing support of the Communists in its campaign for enosis.

The Ambassador stated that naturally he could not give official views on these queries without instructions from Athens, but his attitude implied that he did not consider it impossible for the Greek Government to accept something of this sort. He also expressed the opinion that his Government has considerable influence with Cypriot leaders and even more with the Ethnarchy.

  1. No record of that conversation has been found in Department of State files.
  2. See the editorial note, supra.