278. Memorandum of a Conversation Between the Greek Ambassador (Melas) and Secretary of State Dulles, Department of State, Washington, April 6, 19551


  • Greek Ambassador’s Views on the Middle East; Yugoslav Cooperation with the West; and Cyprus

The Greek Ambassador called today at his request to exchange views on several topics of interest to his Government, the first two of which are treated at greater length in the attached memorandum which he left with the Secretary.2

Middle East—Ambassador Melas advanced the view that the desirable objective of an all-inclusive defense pact arrangement for the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East area had been somewhat dimmed by the precipitate conclusion of the Turkish-Iraqi Pact3 and the ensuing heavy-handed Turkish approach to the Arab states, particularly Syria and Egypt. His talks with Arab chiefs of mission had convinced him that all the Arab states wished eventually to cooperate with the West but that they felt they must be dealt with as a unified group and not picked off individually with bilateral agreements which would arouse suspicions among their sister states. He believed that time should be given them to prepare for such cooperation and that it would be very helpful if, during this period, some limited defense assistance could be extended to them. Within six months, during which Arab defense capabilities might be built up to some extent and serious attempts made to implement international agreements relative to Israel, it might be possible to bring the Arab states into some defensive agreement with the West, either through the extension of the North Atlantic Treaty or perhaps by means of a more limited Mediterranean pact. (Comments: The Ambassador’s reference to a “Mediterranean Pact” reflects the Greek desire, which has been informally expressed ever since the MEDO proposals of 1951,4 to participate in any defense arrangement in the [Page 533] Middle East. The acerb hostile references to Turkey in the attached memorandum may not have originated in instructions from the Greek Foreign Office; however, they are consistent with the bitter attitude toward Turkey which Ambassador Melas has revealed in other conversations with Department officials.)
Yugoslavia—The Ambassador wished to assure the Secretary that, despite rumors, mostly originating from Ankara, of a Yugoslav drift away from the West toward Moscow, sources in the Greek Government confirm the fact that Yugoslavia remains firmly in the Western camp. Top-level military contacts have convinced the Greek Government that the Yugoslav Government is pursuing a policy of strengthening the military aspects of the Balkan Pact and of maintaining association with the West for mutual defense.
Cyprus—The Ambassador introduced the subject of Cyprus and rehearsed the many arguments in support of the Greek position which he has frequently expressed at all levels in the Department. In concluding, he referred to that portion of the Secretary’s messages to Papagos of November 16 and December 11, 1954, which stated that the United States Government “would explore otherwise methods of reducing the tensions created by this question.”5 The Ambassador ventured to suggest that, as four months had passed with no indication of any change in the British policy towards Cyprus, it might be considered an appropriate time for the United States to approach its good friend, the United Kingdom, to offer friendly advice.

The Secretary thanked Ambassador Melas for the clear and frank expression of his views and made the following comments:

Middle East—It would be a mistake, the Secretary thought, to exaggerate the part played by the United States in current Middle East developments. He had originally enunciated the Northern Tier concept in 1953, when his tour of the Middle East convinced him that countries on the border of the Soviet Union who had long been subject to Russian pressures would be more inclined to work out some arrangement of defensive strength based on anti-communism than states to the south, which were preoccupied with other problems. It would also be more feasible for the United States to extend defense assistance to an anti-communist grouping of northern states. The Secretary indicated that developments were now taking a somewhat different course from the one he had first envisaged. He had not anticipated such an early adherence by the United Kingdom. As to other states of the area, we are not exerting any pressure to accelerate their joining the pact; on the other hand, of course, we would not try to prevent their adhering if they wished to do so in [Page 534] their own interests. However, it might be well if further developments should come more slowly. The adherence of one or two states bordering on Israel would raise difficult questions. For example, the furnishing of military assistance to them would in turn lead Israel to feel that it must be strengthened militarily. The result might be a small arms race in the area.
Yugoslavia—The Secretary said he was happy to have the encouraging views of the Ambassador on Yugoslavia. He himself thought there was no probability of Yugoslavia swinging back into the Soviet orbit. It is in the enviable and politically astute position of simultaneously being wooed by the Soviets and enjoying all the advantages of cooperating with the West.
Cyprus—The Secretary remarked that a new Prime Minister had just come into power in London. It is well known that Churchill was determined not to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire, and during the time that he was in the saddle all British decisions in that direction, such as those relating to the Sudan and the Suez Canal, were taken with the utmost reluctance. British policy on many questions may be modified or reexamined under a new Prime Minister. Of course, Eden will be very occupied for some time in taking over the reins of the Government and in preparing for elections; he will need the benefit of a little breathing spell for this process.

After leaving the Secretary’s office, Mr. Baxter expressed the hope that the Greek Government, during any such “breathing spell,” would take no steps which might freeze its position and deny it maneuverability. He wondered whether the story in last Sunday’s New York Times, reporting Papagos as saying that the Cyprus case “would be submitted soon to the United Nations,” implied the intention of the Greek Government to bring this matter to the Security Council. The Ambassador protested that there was no plan to seek Security Council action on Cyprus, but his Government would be forced to present it again at the next General Assembly. Mr. Baxter said he knew Ambassador Cannon had been advising Prime Minister Papagos not to commit the Greek Government irrevocably to any specific course of action. Official Greek statements that Greece “would pursue the Cyprus question by all appropriate means” should certainly be sufficiently forthright to meet political necessities in Greece. Such a flexible position would permit the Greek Government to take advantage of any changed circumstances which may develop during the next few months.

  1. Source: Department of State, Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 64 D 199. Secret. Drafted by Baxter on April 8.
  2. Not printed. Dated April 6, the memorandum presented in detail the Greek Government’s views on certain Middle Eastern developments and Yugoslavia’s relations within the Balkan Pact and with the West.
  3. The Pact of Mutual Cooperation between Turkey and Iraq, signed in Baghdad on February 24, 1955 (generally referred to as the Baghdad Pact), was adhered to by the United Kingdom on April 5, by Pakistan on September 23, and by Iran on November 3. For text, see 233 UNTS 199.
  4. In October 1951, the United States, France, Britain, and Turkey proposed that Egypt participate in a Middle East Defense Organization plan (MEDO). Egypt and the other Arab states rejected the proposal.
  5. For texts, see Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. VIII, pp. 727 and 738,