222. Telegram From the Embassy in Greece to the Department of State 0

3509. 1. King sent for me last night and in presence of Queen at Tatoi outlined critical situation in which Karamanlis government now finds itself. He said he knew of aide-memoire which Foreign Office had given me1 and said that almost simultaneously Prime Minister had come to him and threatened to resign because he could no longer hold his government together in face of rapidly developing reactions in Parliament. The King said his resignation had not been formally submitted and he was attempting to dissuade Karamanlis from such precipitate action. He emphasized, however, that he must inform me of gravity of situation and the difficulties with which he was now faced. He said he frankly did not see any way out if Karamanlis persisted in his intention to resign. If Greece were drawn now into another election it would probably result in increased Communist gains, which might be fatal to the future of this country. I inquired what the possibilities might be for a coalition government and the King responded that in existing circumstances he thought it would be useless as no political leader would be willing assume responsibility for taking decisions on Cyprus in present atmosphere. In his opinion a coalition government would fall apart almost as quickly as it was formed if indeed one could be formed. [6–1/2 lines of source text not declassified] He was therefore forced to conclusion that Karamanlis must be persuaded to carry on and he would do his best to this end.

2. Both King and Queen vigorously criticized the British plan and contended it was impossible of execution. I pointed out to them as I had done to Karamanlis and Averoff2 the advantages which it offered Greece and emphasized importance of gaining time in the present explosive situation. I urged King to impress upon Karamanlis necessity of taking the plan as a point of departure to which Greek Government could make counter-proposals. I pointed out that it was a fundamental postulate of politics not to juggle a hot potato on the front porch but to get it to the cellar until cooling process could be completed. King said he agreed but in the present emotional state of Greek feeling, he was not certain he could persuade Karamanlis to follow such advice.

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3. King cited the aide-memoire handed me as an example of the emotions aroused in this country, and in particular paragraph 4 (B). The Queen at this point asked what that was and upon explanation said she could not believe it. When I explained what the implications were, the Queen was on verge of tears and said that Greece could not leave NATO and they might as well resign themselves.

4. The King expressed great apprehension respecting the Greeks in Istanbul and thought that we might be at mercy of an incident. He did not know what would happen in Greece if there were to be rioting in Istanbul against the Greeks there. He emphasized, as did Averoff, inevitable emotional reaction here should outburst occur. I told him we were attempting to exercise moderation on the Turks and I hoped it would be successful.

5. The King then said he had several suggestions to make which I agreed to put to Washington. He said he could not understand why British were so insistent upon making a statement in Parliament on June 17, and asked whether we could not use our influence with British to eliminate this deadline. He would also ask that we use all our persuasion to get the British to agree to further discussion before any public statement was made. Simultaneously, we might suggest to British that they reconsider the plan to see if something more acceptable to the Greeks could not be worked out. Finally, he asked that we urgently consider the possibility of making some public statement here which Karamanlis could use in Parliament to the effect that we appreciated and commended the restraint Greek Government had shown to date in the face of Turkish attacks against Greek Cypriots. He thought this would help him in dissuading Karamanlis from insisting upon immediate resignation which, he repeated, would lead to chaos in this country.

6. As Department may have realized from earlier telegrams and from this message, I have been attempting to gain in time and persuade GOG from taking action which would worsen situation. I cannot exaggerate the emotional reaction which is prevalent among the Greek leaders. [12–1/2 lines of source text not declassified]

7. Parenthetically, I might add that the Turkish Ambassador here, who is an unemotional and objective diplomat, told me he now feels that present situation is so tense that “any fool who may break a window of his Embassy in Athens can set off riots in Istanbul.” He went as far as any representative can go in suggesting that nothing will be accomplished until US makes up its mind to intervene and to talk sternly in both Ankara and Athens.

8. It is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain attitude calculated to be most useful in light probable future developments. British Ambassador indicates that if, as seems probable, both GOG and GOT reject plan Britain will probably adopt fall back position of attempting [Page 645] proceed with such elements of plan as are not specifically rejected by both sides. If we envisage this as probable course developments we should now adopt line with Greeks which will not conflict. If, on other hand, we decide to take risk of attempting all-out effort force plan through (paragraph 8 Embtel 3481),3 we should immediately start to move in this direction. Every hour of temporizing increases chances of disastrous blow-up in this part of the world.

Riddleberger
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 747C.00/6–1458. Secret; Niact; Limit Distribution. Received at 9:56 a.m. Transmitted in two sections. Repeated to London, Ankara, Paris for USRO, and Nicosia.
  2. Transmitted in Document 219.
  3. See Documents 211 and 215.
  4. Document 215.