128. Memorandum of a Conversation Between the Greek Ambassador (Melas) and the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern, South Asian, and African Affairs (Jernegan), Department of State, Washington, September 12, 19551

SUBJECT

  • Cyprus

The Greek Ambassador called today immediately after returning from his participation in the London talks on Cyprus to recapitulate briefly the course of the conference and its disappointing outcome. He said that Greece had an absolutely clear conscience as to its behavior. It had gone to London with the sincere intention of making a constructive contribution and it had stated its views with [Page 286]such moderation as to evoke praise from the British participants themselves. The Ambassador contrasted the Greek restraint with the “fantastic” charges and wild statements made by the Turks. The Greek record certainly proved, he said, that his country had steadfastly based its policy on the ideals of that great statesman, Venizelos,2 whose vision had laid the foundations of modem Greek-Turkish friendship. Furthermore, Greece had recently taken the lead in bringing Yugoslavia into a Balkan Alliance when the memory was still fresh of armed Communist aggression on Greece originating from Yugoslav territory. The Ambassador could not accept, he stated emphatically, any imputation that Greece had done anything to threaten the security of Turkey or to justify the hostile Turkish attitude.

The Ambassador said his Government did not envisage success from a conference to which Britain had invited a country which had no right to discuss Cyprus. The Greeks had repeatedly given assurances of special treatment for the Turkish minority, but the basic issue of the self-determination of the Cypriots was a question to be discussed solely by Great Britain and Greece. The Ambassador was convinced that Secretary Dulles, who had worked so hard to get these talks started had at no time envisaged that they would be tri partite.

The British proposals, when they were finally made, ostensibly suggested self-government, but they were, according to the Ambassador, the very negation of self-government: they recommended the establishment of a control committee in London. This was nothing but a condominium arrangement, in which the minority and the British would dominate the majority (Greek) interest. As a further indication that the British were not “serious” in their proposals, the Ambassador said that, in the final London meeting, the Turks were “made to ask questions” which elicited answers from the British Government to the effect that the question of the international status of Cyprus or self-determination were not to be discussed in the foreseeable future. This proved that, despite the constructive attitude with which Greece had approached the conference, others, “with encouragement from various sources”, had no intention of trying to work out a solution.

In this connection Mr. Jernegan said he must take issue with the Ambassador’s interpretation. All of our information indicated that the British had suggested the talks and entered into them in good faith. (The Ambassador obviously refused to accept this.) Mr. Jernegan added that he believed the conference had not been completely negative; the British proposals represented some progress and he [Page 287]hoped everyone concerned would give very serious consideration to them.

When the conversation turned to the recent unfortunate anti-Greek riots in Istanbul and Izmir, the Ambassador said the fact that demonstrations began simultaneously in widely scattered areas and that “bombs” were set in Greek churches indicated advance planning. He also denied in most vehement terms that the dynamiting of the Turkish Consulate in Salonika was “done by a Greek hand.”

Mr. Jernegan said that we were shocked by the outbreak of violence in Turkey. Our views had been made known to the Turkish Government, and at the same time we had urged that they do everything in their power to prevent worsening of their relations within NATO and in the Balkan Alliance. As the Ambassador probably knew, we had informed the Greek Government of our gratification at the steps taken by the Greek Government to prevent retaliatory demonstrations in Greece and to protect Turkish property. However, we were greatly concerned at the growing indications of the revival of old animosities which the Greek Government—and the Ambassador personally—had done so much to suppress. It was understandable that emotions were running high at the present time, but it appeared to us that all of the reasons which had existed in the time of Venizelos for trying to bring about close Greek-Turk friendship still obtained. Any attempt to assess responsibility for the present situation was irrelevant when larger issues were at stake. The gravity of the situation was unmistakable when the Greek Foreign Minister informed us that, if the Turkish Government refused to accept the revised version of a Note which it rejected in its first form as containing unacceptable aspersions on Turkish officials, the Greek Government would sever diplomatic relations with Turkey. The Greek Ambassador was visibly shaken by this information, which he had not heard from his Foreign Office. Mr. Jernegan said that, according to a subsequent message, the Greek Cabinet had, for the time being at least, rejected the idea of a break in diplomatic relations, but the fact that such a step was seriously considered and might still be a possibility indicated the degree to which relations had deteriorated. Mr. Jernegan also referred to the Greek announcement that its forces would not participate in NATO maneuvers. This would be a great blow to Allied unity, and he hoped the Greek Government could reconsider its decision. To justify the Greek position, the Ambassador pointed out the danger of unfortunate incidents if Greek and Turkish units should participate in joint military exercises at this time.

As the Ambassador left he asked Mr. Jernegan how he felt about the forthcoming UN meeting. Mr. Jernegan said he contemplated the prospect of discussion on the Cyprus question with [Page 288]consternation and fear. He believed further public debate could serve no one’s interests and would only exacerbate feelings now at fever pitch. He would hope that the question could be discussed in some other forum than that of the General Assembly. It was noteworthy that Mr. Melas, though not agreeing to this suggestion, did not immediately state that his Government could under no circumstances agree to keeping Cyprus off the UN agenda.3

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 747C.00/9–1255. Secret. Drafted by Baxter.
  2. Eleutherios Venizelos, Greek statesman and former Prime Minister.
  3. On September 13, Ambassador Melas called on Hoover and Murphy to discuss Cyprus. The Ambassador covered the same ground as he had with Jernegan except that he made a strong plea for the United States to exert pressure on Great Britain and Turkey in an effort to change their attitudes toward Cyprus. (Memorandum of conversation; Department of State, Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 64 D 199) The following day, Melas discussed Cyprus with Merchant and read a telegram he had received from his government stating that it was necessary that the Cyprus situation be brought before the United Nations. (Memorandum of conversation; ibid., Central Files, 747C.00/9–1655)