143. Memorandum of a Conversation, Ambassador’s Residence, Paris, October 24, 1955, 7:30 p.m.1

USDel/MC/1

PARTICIPANTS

  • United States
    • The Secretary
    • Mr. Merchant
    • Mr. Russell
  • Greece
    • Mr. Theotokis
    • Alexis S. Liatis

SUBJECT

  • Meeting with Greek Foreign Minister

The Greek Foreign Minister opened the conversation by asking the Secretary whether he felt confident about the success of the coming discussions in Geneva. The Secretary said that he thought there was about an even chance that some good might come out of them although he was not encouraged by the recent course of action of the Soviets in the Middle East.

Mr. Theotokis said that he wished to speak about a few developments concerning Greece and that he regretted things were not as good as they could be. Public opinion in Greece had been extremely disturbed since the unfortunate outbreak in Turkey a month ago and, with the prospect of new elections in Greece, the [Page 308]Communists were exploiting the situation. The Communist Party in Greece is a strong one and used with skill from Moscow. The government is anxious to reestablish the situation as nearly as possible as it was before last month. To do this it needs help, both moral and material. On the first score, the Greek Government appreciates the help which the U.S. furnished in convincing the Turks to take the various steps which they did. Mr. Dulles remarked that unfortunately a number of things which we said in voicing our repugnance at the things done by the Turks were never adequately reported by the Greeks; for example, the letter which the Secretary sent to Senator Capehart2 and statements made in the UN. The Greek press portrayed the U.S. as indifferent and as equating the victim and the wrongdoer. Mr. Theotokis said that the press in Greece is not subject to government discipline and that the things which the Secretary mentioned did not reflect the spirit of the government. In reply to the Secretary’s statement that there was undoubtedly a strong tendency on the part of the Greek people to feel deserted, Mr. Theotokis said that the Greeks are a sentimental people; sometimes this sentimentality is an obstacle and sometimes an advantage. It is up to us now to exploit it to our advantage and it must be made clear to the Greek people that the moral part of the situation has been set straight. The Secretary commented that the ceremony that day at Izmir3 had been a fine idea for which he congratulated the Greek Government.

Mr. Theotokis then referred to the present financial difficulties of the Greek Government. He said he understood that the Turks have asked for aid. The Secretary commented that they have been asking for aid for some time but that we had not been persuaded it was necessary. Mr. Theotokis said he did not wish to imply that it might not be necessary but that any action to assist the Turks should be considered in the light of the Greek financial problem. The Secretary said he could give Mr. Theotokis assurance that the United States will do nothing precipitate and that we will do nothing in this respect without relation to Greek sensibilities. He said a telegram would be sent immediately to the Department informing it of this assurance.4 Mr. Theotokis said that because of the relationship of the Greek financial picture to Greece’s responsibilities in the NATO organization, he had informed Ambassador Perkins that unless Greece received financial help it would have [Page 309]difficulty in maintaining its present economic index figure, balancing its budget and supporting its currency. He said that he had taken up with Ambassador Perkins the consideration of offshore procurement of munitions in Greece which is an important item in Greek manufacturing. He said he had also presented the full picture to Ambassador Cannon. He expressed the hope that the Secretary would consider the problem as urgently as possible, since delay would create a situation that would affect the Greek elections next year. He commented that the Greeks know Communists from several years of guerilla warfare and that it was clear that the next election would be fought on the question of international relations.

Mr. Theotokis said that the last matter he wished to raise was Greek relations with the British. He commented that the gap between the British and the Archbishop of Cyprus is deep but not very wide and that he was seeing Foreign Minister Macmillan tomorrow. The Secretary said that he felt the Cyprus situation had gone sour because the Greek Government had pushed it too hard and fast and because the British had moved too slowly. Mr. Theotokis said he was asking the U.S. to help in getting the negotiations between Field Marshal Harding and Makarios resumed.5 Such negotiations are the best way to proceed. If the meeting is handled from Greece it makes the Cypriot nationalists traitors. Mr. Theotokis said that while the negotiations were going on the Greek Government might hold discussions with the British behind the scenes. He said he might later ask the Secretary to intervene to give the negotiations a final push. The Secretary said he would try to honor any reasonable request of that nature. We had said in the UN that such negotiations were the best way to handle the problem. He could not, however, guarantee that he would act because he did not know what the exact nature of the request might be. Mr. Theotokis said that it was important to get the Cyprus question settled because the Communists were using it as they always did the colonial issue. The Secretary agreed that it was the type of thing the Communists were eager to exploit. In the U.S. our sentiments are almost always on the side of colonial peoples, although sometimes we have to keep our sentiments under control as we also have ties with colonial powers. It is important to find peaceful solutions to colonial issues. If they break out into violence the Communists know how to use that. Mr. Theotokis said it was important for Macmillan to understand that the Greek Government has its public pressures just as Macmillan has [Page 310]his. The Secretary said critics of the present British Government were attacking it for giving up the Suez base and pointing out that no sooner had the base been taken over by Egypt than the Communists had moved in. Similarly, with respect to Cyprus, it is important to make sure that it did not pass under Communist control.

Mr. Theotokis said that he expected that he would be queried by the press about his conference with the Secretary and that he intended to say that this was the first opportunity he had had to meet the Secretary and that they had discussed a broad range of matters, including the forthcoming conference in Geneva.

  1. Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 60 D 627, CF 564. Secret. Drafted by Russell on November 1. The location of the meeting is from a copy of the memorandum ibid., Central File 396.1–GE/10–2555. Dulles was in Paris en route to Geneva to attend the Foreign Ministers Meeting, October 27–November 16.
  2. Not found in Department of State files.
  3. On October 24, the Turkish Government, in an attempt to compensate for the damage resulting from anti-Greek disturbances of September 6 and 7, sponsored a ceremony at Izmir to honor the Greek flag.
  4. Transmitted in Secto 19, October 25. (Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 60 D 627, CF 564)
  5. On September 25, the Colonial Office announced that Field Marshal Harding had been appointed Governor of Cyprus to replace Sir Robert Armitage. Early in October, Harding arrived in Cyprus and had a series of discussions with Makarios on October 4, 7, and 11. On October 11 and 12, Harding and Makarios, in separate statements, indicated that they had been unable to reach agreement.