208. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, November 15, 1956, 10:30–11:10 a.m.1


  • Cyprus


  • Constantine Karamanlis, Prime Minister of Greece
  • George V. Melas, Greek Ambassador
  • Phedon Cavalierato, Counselor, Greek Embassy
  • Robert Murphy, G
  • William M. Rountree, NEA
  • C. Burke Elbrick, EUR
  • Walter N. Walmsley, IO
  • Ernest A. Lister, BNA
  • Owen T. Jones, GTI
  • Murat W. Williams, GTI
  • Chalmers B. Wood, GTI

The Prime Minister emphasized the justice and moderation of the Greek position. “Everybody knows we are right, but by talking about it we give people a headache.” He had held to a moderate course and done nothing “to hurt a solution” for fourteen months. [Page 431] Time was running out. He asked if Mr. Murphy had any suggestions.

Mr. Murphy said we were not in a position to offer a solution, but we felt talks between Greece and Turkey were important.

The Prime Minister avoided this and cited as an example of Greek reasonableness their willingness to let NATO decide on the nature of guarantees for bases and minorities On Cyprus. This could be done by NATO two, three or four years after self-government was established. At this time the question of how and when to hold a plebiscite could also be decided. In reply to a question he said he did not intend to discuss Cyprus at the NATO Council Meeting in December.

He cited the British deportation of Makarios a week after his election and said, “this was the work of our allies.”

Mr. Murphy agreed that this had been hard on the Greek Government and said the US supported the idea that people are entitled to their own government. It was a question of procedure.

The Prime Minister mentioned that after the use of Cyprus as a base for operations against Egypt, the question of using Cyprus as a base has become more difficult for Greece.

As to the UN, he expected the debate would not take place until after Christmas. If there was no substantial improvement by then, Greece would have to fight in the UN. He raised the question of US support for Greece in the UN and suggested that the US inform the British that a settlement was definitely possible and that if the UK did not move quickly towards such a settlement, the US would have to oppose the British in the UN.

Mr. Murphy said we questioned the value of an acrimonious public debate, which would be exploited by the Soviets. We understood the factors involved and would support every effort to reach a settlement.

The Prime Minister said that if the British wanted a solution, they would start by releasing Makarios.

Mr. Murphy replied that events in the Middle East had not lightened the British load.

The Prime Minister said that Makarios had sufficient prestige to lead the Cypriots in any decision he made. It would be difficult for the Greek Government to find a solution without him. If the British wanted to prove their good faith to the Americans and to the world, they could begin with such a gesture. It would improve the situation by fifty percent.

Mr. Murphy said, “We may explore this with our friends.”

Mr. Karamanlis said he would continue to do his best, but did not know how long he could stand. The day before (November 14) in the Steering Committee he had given orders to avoid debate [Page 432] although if he had fought, it would have been very popular in Greece. The Cyprus situation was becoming more serious the longer it remained unsettled. Time was important.

In conclusion Mr. Murphy replied, “Your approach shows you are exercising great statesmanship. We have nothing to gain by the prolongation of this unhappy crisis between our three friends. Time is important and although the overall situation is not favorable for a settlement of the Cyprus situation, we will do our best.”

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 747C.00/11–1556. Confidential. Drafted by Wood. Karamanlis arrived in New York on November 10 to head the Greek Delegation to the Eleventh Session of the U.N. General Assembly.