317. Memorandum of Conversation0
Athens, March 5, 1959, 11:45 a.m.
- Cyprus; Yugoslav-Greek Talks at Rhodes
- Minister of Foreign Affairs Evangelos Averoff-Tossizza
- Mr. Phedon Annino Cavalierato, Chef de Cabinet
- Mr. Alexander Matsas, Director, First Political Division, Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- Mr. Owen T. Jones, Director, Greek, Turkish and Iranian Affairs, Department of State and Samuel D. Berger, charge d’Affaires ad interim
- The Foreign Minister asked me to call, as this was the first time I had seen him since the Cyprus agreement. I expressed the great satisfaction of the United States with the settlement and congratulated him on this tremendous achievement, in which he had personally played so great a part.
- He then spoke as follows about Cyprus:
- It was, he said, a tremendous achievement, but it was not yet a settlement. It would depend upon whether it worked, and that in turn depended on the Greek and Turkish governments. For his part, he could say that the Greek government was in deadly earnest to maintain the closest cooperation with Turkey. This was an overriding necessity, in view of the dangerous Middle Eastern situation.
- He himself was not happy about particular details of the settlement, and could not tell whether it was going to prove possible to move toward the concrete realization of self-government. This would depend in the main on Makarios. He thought Makarios was sincere and determined to make the agreement work.
- It would also depend upon Grivas. He knew Grivas and had recently received communications from him. Grivas was not at all pleased with the settlement. However, in Grivas’ last letter he had said that while he was dissatisfied he was, above all, a soldier, and he would remain silent. Mr. Averoff said “That is the best we can expect at the moment, and perhaps it will be possible to bring Grivas around. We plan to give him very high honors,1 and the British have proved [Page 777] understanding.” Grivas refuses to come out of his mountain hiding place until after all the men who fought with him have been released. The British were very understanding in the matter, and he hoped that all this would be accomplished very soon and that Grivas would be coming to Greece.
- In an aside, Averoff told the following story: He said that he told Macmillan and Lennox-Boyd2 that the wisest thing the British could do when Grivas leaves Cyprus is to send him out with a guard of honor at the airport. He said that Macmillan and Lennox-Boyd were at first taken aback at this suggestion, but when he explained that this single gesture would do a great deal to warm the hearts of the Greek Cypriots and the people of Greece, and restore good will toward the British, they saw the point. However, they said it was impossible to take such a dramatic step because of British public opinion. Mr. Averoff said the British gave indications that they would do something to indicate the respect in which they hold Grivas. Averoff said the British Army in Cyprus has a good deal of admiration for Grivas and from the British Army point of view, Macmillan could have gotten away with this gesture, but that he recognized it was impossible from the domestic British point of view.
- Mr. Averoff then said in a further aside that one day he will let us have access to some of the secret files on Cyprus. They will show, he said, who shot Mrs. Cundliffe in the back and who shot the American Consul.3 It was not, he could assure me, a Greek. Mrs. Cundliffe was shot because of a love affair. The Greek government knew this at the time, but could not publish it because once the woman was dead, it would have been regarded with disbelief in the emotional climate of the time. However, we would recall that the court did not find the accused guilty, and the whole thing was covered over. This whole story will be told in time, but the time is not yet. As he began to move on to other subjects, I interrupted him to ask if he could tell us the story of the shooting of the American Vice Consul. He said he was sorry he could not tell me anything more except that it was not a Greek who did it, but it was done by “those who wanted to create antagonism between the Greeks and the Americans.” He refused to be drawn out in the matter, merely saying we would be told in due course. I did not feel this was the occasion to engage in a discussion of the necessity for us to know the [Page 778] circumstances surrounding the shooting of one of our officers, but this is a matter on which we should consider pressing at an appropriate time.
- Averoff then said the ability to make the Cyprus settlement work also depended upon other countries. A United States gesture now would be most useful in terms of the Cypriots, and he strongly urged that we issue a statement congratulating the Cypriot people on their achievement and the prospects of independence and self-government, and indicating an American interest in the future of Cyprus, saying that the Americans seek nothing of Cyprus and ask only that they join the family of free nations.4 When Mr. Matsas interrupted to suggest that the United States should indicate a willingness to offer economic help “without strings”, Mr. Averoff said he did not think that this was desirable for the purposes of this first statement. This was more in the nature of extending a hand of friendship to the Cypriot people. There had been in the papers this morning a report that the United States contemplated setting up missile bases in Cyprus. Mr. Averoff paused at that, as if to expect an answer from us, whereupon Mr. Jones and I said we knew nothing of any plans for missile bases in Cyprus, and were sure there was no truth to the report. Averoff implied in that event it would do no harm to deny the report, for there were those who were now seeking to damage the United States in the eyes of the Greeks and the Cypriots.
- Averoff then said the following of the Russians. The Russians who usually were so skilled in exploiting any kind of situation had, in their handling of the Cyprus situation, not been very clever. Nor had they given any indication of friendship to the new Cyprus nation. They were plugging the line that the enosis had been betrayed. This was not going over in Cyprus because the people are so enthused with their new freedom that Russia appeared to them at the moment to be unfriendly. The Russian line was, however, creating something of a danger inside Greece and would have some effect on the Greek youth. In the final analysis, the future of Cyprus will depend upon what Makarios and Grivas say and do. If the local Communists come out against the settlement they will be called traitors in Cyprus but the local Communists will in the end do what Moscow tells them to. At the moment Makarios and Grivas were confronted by the large Communist controlled trade union movement. The Communists have done a good job of building the unions, representing them, and fighting for improvements, and in trade union terms are well regarded among the workers. Averoff estimates that about half the trade union members or somewhat less are Communists. The Archbishop has tried to build a new union [Page 779] movement, but so far has not had very much success. On the future handling of the trade unions, the Archbishop and Grivas disagree. The Archbishop is for a moderate policy of trying to wean the workers away from the Communist controlled unions into the new nationalist trade union movement. Grivas, who is vigorously anti-Communist, as everyone knows, is for a tough line and wants to take harsh and punitive measures against the Communist controlled unions and their leaders. Averoff then turned to Grivas again, saying he has indicated in his latest communication that he will return to his military career and will not take an active interest in politics, either in Greece or in Cyprus.
[Here follows discussion of unrelated subjects.]
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 747C.00/3–659. Secret; Limited Distribution; Noforn. Drafted by Berger. Enclosure to despatch 725 from Athens, March 6. The meeting was held in Averoff’s office at the Greek Foreign Ministry.↩
- Grivas was flown by the Greek Air Force to Athens on March 17 for a public reception. He was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General (Retired) in the Greek Army and granted a pension commensurate with that rank.↩
- Presumably during the London conference on Cyprus February 17–19.↩
- Mrs. Cundliffe, the wife of a sergeant in the 29th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery, was shot in the back by a terrorist on October 3, 1958, while leaving a store in Varosha, Cyprus. The attack came shortly after EOKA announced a terror campaign directed against all English persons on the island. John P. Wentworth, Vice Consul in Nicosia, was shot by gunmen on September 18, 1958, during a series of EOKA terrorist attacks in Nicosia.↩
- In telegram 2444 to Athens, March 12, the Department indicated that mention of U.S. satisfaction with the Cyprus settlement would be included in speeches celebrating the 10th anniversary of NATO. (Department of State, Central Files, 747C.00/3–659)↩