17. Telegram From the Embassy in Greece to the Department of State1
Athens, February 21, 1964, 3 p.m.
- I called on PriMin last night. I found him looking tired but mentally alert. After I extended our congratulations on his great political victory, we immediately got down to discussion Cyprus problem.
- I recalled to him that our only interest was reestablishment law and order so that parties concerned could work out political solution in atmosphere of calm. For our part, we had no pre-conceived ideas of what ultimate solution should be—this was matter for parties concerned. Papandreou indicated he understood and appreciated our position, but said that many considered we were supporting Turks. He smilingly added that if the US fully supported the “right”, we would have to take sides—Greece’s—for London-Zurich Accords had created impossible [Page 35] situation. I suggested one of reasons for public misunderstanding was irresponsible and wholly misleading articles in Greek press which led the public to believe that US either had ulterior motives or was supporting Turkey versus Greece. I pointed out that Paraskevopoulos caretaker govt had either been unwilling or unable tell facts to public.
- While on the subject of our support of GOT position, I said that it was obvious we could not accept the view—apparently advanced by Makarios—that the SC could amend or nullify treaties. This could only be accomplished through negotiation of the interested parties. Papandreou nodded assent. I stressed that, even though we took above position on treaty, we had been using very strong pressure on GOT not to exercise “right of intervention.”
- I then went on to say that, during these past days, the situation on the island had deteriorated and was extremely dangerous. Not only was Makarios apparently acting on very bad advice, but individual guerrilla bands were growing in strength and independence. Consequently it was of transcending importance that peacekeeping force be organized and despatched quickly and, meanwhile, that every effort be made to prevent further violence on the island. In view great danger confronting us all, I added that it was indeed fortunate that Papandreou had achieved his overwhelming electoral victory, for this put him in key position to play constructive and decisive role on Cyprus question; his election could well prove turning point in history as he was probably only man who could move problem toward solution.
- After we agreed on need for peace force and also on fact this only temporary expedient, I said it seemed to me only hope for any solution, long or short term, was agreement between Greece and Turkey—certainly no permanent solution could be found without their agreement. Meanwhile, what could Papandreou do to get Makarios in hand and also control Greek-Cypriot irregular leaders? This was essential and extremely urgent.
- Papandreou said first that he already moved to gain control over Greek Cypriots as he had told me he would do if elected. He repeated his statement to me of last week (Embtel 1205)2 that it was inadmissible for Greece’s future to be decided by Makarios and stated firmly that he intended to enforce discipline on Greek Cypriots. To achieve this, he had been in touch with Makarios and had also just that afternoon met with General Grivas and a “representative” of Cypriot Interior Minister Georgatzis; he expected Georgatzis to arrive during the night. He also said he was contacting Sampson, Lyssarides and the Commander of the Greek forces in Cyprus, Col. Petridies. He said he would demand that Greek [Page 36] Cypriots undertake no violence against Turk Cypriots unless attacked first. He stressed importance GOT holding Turk Cypriots in check. Otherwise, he seemed confident that he could exert the necessary control over the Greek Cypriots to create an atmosphere leading to negotiations.
- The PriMin agreed completely that first step was to bring about peace and calm atmosphere in which negotiations could take place. However, he said long-term solution requires removal of Greek and Turkish forces from Cyprus; their presence there, facing one another was unnatural and created constant tension. Their place should be taken by an international force, he continued, that would stay as long as needed. Long term solution would require “international” guarantee rather than present impossible system. He did not spell out “international” but seemed to have in mind a UN guarantee of some sort (I don’t think he would rule out NATO) which would give “complete” guarantees to Turk Cypriots for protection of their minority rights (he repeated word “complete” several times).
- Papandreou said he thought time had come when Grivas could play constructive role in Cyprus; he observed that as Makarios’ prestige was going down, Grivas’ was going up. However, he emphasized that he did not want to play one off against the other, and that it was essential that they cooperate or the Communists would gain. He apparently had not thought through how Grivas’ appearance on scene would affect British or Turks. He seemed to be toying with idea that Grivas would pull all irregular elements together and ensure discipline, leaving Makarios as President—for the moment at least. This is all in “feeling out” stage and I doubt that Papandreou sees clear path ahead as yet.
- I stressed again that it was vital that there be understanding between Greece and Turkey. He agreed and said that if he were to meet Inonu, he would tell him that it is insane to consider war between Greece and Turkey; however, he added that if Turks “open door to insane asylum, then he would have to accompany Inonu inside.” I did not press him on meeting with Inonu, since I thought it would be counter-productive to do so at that particular moment. However, I have very definite impression he would go along with meeting if we can set proper stage. President’s letter to Brit PriMin may show the way, but this should be researched by Brits.
- Papandreou expressed optimism about outcome of talks at UN; he said info he had received during afternoon sounded promising. He strongly favors giving U Thant proposals a good try.
- Comment: I was impressed by speed with which Papandreou has started action aimed at gaining control of Greek Cypriots as he had told me he would in our meeting last week. He seemed fully cognizant of dangers involved in Cyprus crisis and said several times he wanted to move Cyprus from the “danger” status to the “problem” status. Whether [Page 37] he can really gain control of Greeks on island remains to be seen, but he apparently is confident that he can and is going to make real college try. Meanwhile, I urge that we restate to Turks importance controlling their brethren on island in order prevent incidents such as those mentioned in Nicosia’s 405.3
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 23–8 CYP. Secret; Immediate. Repeated to USUN, Ankara, London, and Nicosia. Passed to the White House, COA, JCS, OSD, CINCEUR, and CINCSTRIKE.↩
- Dated February 11. (Ibid.)↩
- Telegram 405 from Nicosia, December 29, 1963, reported the Ambassador’s talk with Clerides. (Ibid., POL 25 CYP)↩