15. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the United Kingdom1

5185. Please deliver the following letter from the President to Prime Minister Douglas-Home: Begin verbatim text.

Dear Prime Minister:

I have had a good talk with George Ball about the impressions he gained on his trip and we have given further thought to the explosive situation stemming from the troubles in Cyprus.

George Ball reports he had a particularly useful meeting with Rab Butler and Duncan Sandys and I am glad to find that there is no difference in our appraisals of the Cyprus crisis.2

I think you were wise to beat the Cypriots to the Security Council.3 It seems very likely that we should be able to prevent the use of the Council to scrap the guarantee treaty. I hope we can also obtain a satisfactory resolution for the creation of an international force. However, the Council may well be heading into a mean and protracted debate, and I fear that an international force will not be landed in Cyprus quickly.

Meanwhile, there is the increasing nervousness of the Turks. In more than three hours of conversation with Inonu, George Ball came away convinced, as you know, that the Turks are poised to intervene and that they will certainly move if a further nasty incident like Limassol should occur. In that event, we would be in for deep trouble since the Greeks have made it clear that they will not stand down.

I conclude from all this that we cannot safely depend merely on the results of the Security Council action. Even an international force may not secure order in Cyprus. As your own people on the Island have pointed out quite perceptively no peacekeeping force will be able to maintain order unless something can be done to change the attitude of the two communities—and the encouragement each is getting from the mainland. Yet Turkish passions will not subside, even with a force in being, if the killing continues.

For that reason, I would strongly urge you to give serious thought to convening the guarantor powers under Article IV of the Treaty for a summit [Page 32] conference within the next few days. There are clear advantages in acting promptly. First, we need immediate insurance against a unilateral Turkish move. Second, we have, at long last, a Greek Government with a solid majority. Papandreou is rumored in the press this morning as possibly intending to get together with the Turks as his first order of business. This may well be the psychological moment for an effort to break the impasse.

I should think that the subject matter of such a summit meeting could well be the security problem in Cyprus and support for the international force in the United Nations. At the same time, I think you might use such a meeting to develop standby contingency arrangements against the possibility that the Turks may be stimulated by events into a unilateral move.

Such arrangements could take the form of a pledge from each of the guarantor powers that, if one party felt compelled to move, it would confer with the other two powers to make arrangements by which the move would be made on a tripartite basis. Military representatives of the three countries could work out plans for some kind of a combined operation—perhaps along the lines suggested in a paper which George Ball gave to Rab Butler and Duncan Sandys in London.4

If such a meeting were to be held, it might be useful to ask the United States to send observers in order that we could add our influence to yours in injecting some rationality into the present situation. If you thought this a good idea, I would be glad to send George Ball and perhaps General Maxwell Taylor.

Of course, it is important that whatever the guarantor powers do as a group should reinforce rather than cut across the current effort in New York to establish the basis for an international peacekeeping force. Both the draft resolution you expect to put into the Security Council and the ideas floated by U Thant include the provision that the guarantor powers should reach agreement, along with the Government of Cyprus, on details of a peacekeeping plan. I have no doubt that a meeting of guarantor powers could be fitted into the track now being pursued in the United Nations.

With my strong feeling that time is of the essence, I am at your disposal to help in any possible way to avoid the fearful consequences of a Greek-Turkish war. Sincerely, End verbatim text.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 23–8 CYP. Confidential; Immediate; Exdis. Drafted and approved by Ball and cleared by Komer for the White House. Repeated to Ankara and Athens.
  2. Ball reported on this meeting in telegram 3969 from London, February 16. (Ibid.)
  3. On February 15, following Makarios’ formal rejection of the U.S.-U.K. proposals for an international military force, the British Government requested a Security Council meeting to discuss Cyprus. See American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1964, pp. 561–562.
  4. Ball flew to London on February 14. His “Action Plan for Cyprus” was transmitted in telegram 3961 from London, February 16. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 23–8 CYP)