178. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, June 19, 19561


  • British Plan for Cyprus


  • The Secretary
  • Chargé d’Affaires Coulson, British Embassy
  • Miss Barbara Salt, Counselor, British Embassy
  • Chalmers B. Wood, GTI

Mr. Coulson presented the Secretary with a statement (enclosed)2 which outlined the British proposal for a solution of the Cyprus question. The Secretary read this proposal very carefully.

He asked what was the relative size of the Turkish population on the Island and was told that it was about one-fifth. He said that this would then not give the Turkish Cypriots a veto on the question of self-determination since a two-thirds majority was required. Mr. Coulson agreed. The Secretary then observed that this was obviously an important statement which he desired to study and on which he would want advice. Minister Coulson then described the statement as being the absolute limit to which the British would go. He said it was imaginative; that it might, with the support of our friends, win world opinion. He continued by saying that the British Government had shown it to the Turkish Government yesterday and that it had had a “rough reception.” The Turkish Foreign Minister had said he wished to study it but felt the plan was dangerous since it was apt to make the Greeks more intransigent.

The Secretary then asked if the treaty provisions of the plan did not give the Turks in effect a veto, since if they did not adhere, the plan would not commence. Mr. Coulson agreed that this was so.

Mr. Coulson said that, acting on instructions, he had two questions to ask:

Can you make any useful approach to the Turks?
Is ten years too short a time?

[Page 369]

The Secretary answered that in order to understand the proposition better he would like to ask a few questions himself. He asked whether the defense treaty would run on beyond the date of “so called self-determination?” Mr. Coulson replied in the affirmative. The Secretary then asked whether if at some future date the Island wanted to join Greece would the United Kingdom still be responsible for external defense? The answer was “Yes.” The Secretary then asked about the provision that the question of self-determination should not be raised or discussed publicly or between the three powers involved. Minister Coulson answered that this was to prevent the Greeks from pressing the question. He believed something of the sort had been done for the Saar. Miss Salt added that this provision was for the benefit of the Turks and to prevent the question from being raised in the United Nations.

The Secretary asked whether the British had had an exchange of views with the Greeks. Minister Coulson replied “No,” because the British Ambassador in Athens had reported that the Greeks would want to negotiate immediately. The Secretary observed that we have no voice in this question except as the British Government desired us to have one. Mr. Coulson replied that the British Government was very anxious to hear our answers. The Secretary said that we would like time to think the matter over. Mr. Coulson indicated that they expected a formal answer from the Turks fairly soon. Miss Salt added that there was already a good deal of accurate press speculation and that the British would have to act fairly quickly. The Secretary indicated that he would attempt to give an answer the following day.

Mr. Coulson then asked if the Secretary would agree not to give any details of this plan to the Greeks or our Embassy in Athens since there was a considerable danger of leaks. The Secretary indicated that he would restrict the information as requested.3

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 747C.00/6–1956. Secret. Drafted by Wood.
  2. Not found attached. The British statement, dated June 19 (infra), was attached to a note from Coulson to Dulles, June 19, transmitting a message from Lloyd to Dulles. The message indicated that the main British problem in handling Cyprus was the Turks. According to Lloyd, the new British proposal provided “reasonable safeguards” for the Turkish position, but the Turks would need “a lot of persuading” if they were to accept this. (Department of State, Presidential Correspondence: Lot 66 D 204, UK Officials Corres. with Secy. Dulles/Herter 7/54 thru 3/57 Vol. I Incoming)
  3. On June 19, Dulles transmitted the substance of his earlier conversation with Coulson to the Embassy at London and informed Aldrich that it was his initial impression that the United States would not want to be in the position of endorsing the plan unless there were some reasonable chance of its acceptance by Greece. Dulles concluded that he thought the plan had little chance of acceptance unless discussed privately with the Greek and the Turkish Governments. (Telegram 7620 to London, June 19; ibid., Central Files, 747C.00/6–1956)