No. 377
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 today at his request to discuss Cyprus. He seemed disappointed that Mr. Byroade could not give him encouraging news with respect to the British attitude. Mr. Byroade told him that, on the contrary, he feared we had underestimated the firmness of the British position and the importance they attach to maintaining it. Within the last few days we have had indications that British Government feels so strongly about this matter that it may very well stage a walk-out on any discussion of Cyprus in the UN. He reiterated his belief that the Greek Government has chosen a most inopportune time to bring up a problem which, in a more dormant form, has been a source of irritation for years. Smarting under the forced evacuation from Egypt and faced with moving its Middle East headquarters from Suez to Cyprus, the British at this time will be completely inflexible on any move which threatens their sovereignty over Cyprus.

Mr. Byroade indicated that the US Government is seriously concerned about this matter, believing that an airing of this problem in the UN could profit no one but the Soviet bloc. It is not conceivable [Page 701] that the Greek objective of enosis could be achieved in this session of the GA, and in fact any process of gradual and orderly evolution toward that end would only be retarded by emotional clashes in full view of the world between two such old friends as Greece and the UK. We are also disturbed by the recent declaration of Archbishop Makarios counseling the Cypriots to resort to violence in order to drive the British out.1 Threats of this sort are not conducive to an amicable solution of differences.

Mr. Byroade informed the Ambassador that we had learned confidentially from the British of their intention of announcing a new constitution for Cyprus, if not today in Parliament, certainly before the end of this week, a move which was to be communicated to the Greek and Turkish Governments prior to the public statement.2

The Ambassador said that new British proposals for a constitution in Cyprus had been expected by his Government, but, of course, would not be enough to satisfy anyone. Public opinion is now running so high on this question that neither this Greek Government nor any which could be envisaged would be able to remain in power if it did not respond to the will of the people by taking this matter to the UN. He repeated what he had often said before, that the only thing which can prevent such a step on the part of the Greek Government is a willingness of the British to engage in bilateral discussions.

The Ambassador said further that his Prime Minister wished him to call to the attention of Secretary Dulles a recent exchange in the House of Commons which had “Outraged” Greek sensibilities. Mr. Mallalieu3 had reminded the House that in 1897 Gladstone had said “he hoped that Cyprus would very soon become a Greek island.” Mr. Nutting had replied for the Government: “We are now living in 1954, not 1897.”4 The Ambassador did not see how such a retrogressive attitude of the British could be defended. Certainly times have changed—but in the other direction, that is, toward more recognition, whether rightly or wrongly, of the rights of peoples to self-determination. This was reaffirmed only a few weeks ago by Eisenhower and Churchill in their communiqué at the end of the Washington talks.5

[Page 702]

Mr. Byroade said he would again bring the subject of Cyprus to the attention of the Secretary, after which he would get in touch with the Ambassador.6

  1. Reference presumably is to the statement by Makarios quoted in footnote 3, Document 374.
  2. Reference is to the statement by Hopkinson before the House of Commons, July 28. (H.C. Debs., 5th series, vol. 531, col. 504)
  3. Joseph P. W. Mallalieu, Labour Member of Parliament.
  4. This exchange took place July 21. ( H.C. Debs., 5th series, vol. 530, col. 46)
  5. June 29; text in AFP, vol. I, p. 1707.
  6. Records of Byroade’s intended discussion of Cyprus with Dulles and a subsequent contact by Byroade with Politis have not been found in Department of State files.