179. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Greece1

1161. Following report of conversation between Under Sec and Greek Amb. is based on uncleared memcon.2 It is FYI, Noforn and subject to revision on review. Above caveat, however, does not affect portion of telegram requesting action by Embassy Athens.

Cyprus. Greek Ambassador called on Under Secretary Monday March 15 to respond to questions raised in March 12 conversation (Deptel 1048 to Athens).3

[Page 369]

Stated he was instructed to deliver GOG reply in form aide-mémoire (text per Athens 1359)4 which he handed to Mr. Ball, suggesting it be read and discussed. Matsas was defensive throughout conversation and attempted justify in rambling fashion that Greece 1) had not acted contrary to best interests NATO, and 2) importation of military equipment by GOC was not something Greece had encouraged or could prohibit but derived from need of GOC to defend itself against Turkish threat.

Following main points and responses emerged during talk:

Under Secretary remarked Aide-mémoire raised more questions than it answered. Several facts were obscure: for example who has been training in Alexandria and for how long. Our information indicated Greek officers had been sent in February. If training is completed in one month rather than three, it can only mean personnel were previously trained in Nike missiles. Whether personnel “released” or not, they had residual allegiance to GOG or Greek military and Greece had obligation to NATO. Matsas promised to request more information.

Ball reviewed our understanding of GOG efforts to bring stability to island by injection into defense apparatus of some 13,000 personnel, some of whom had been released from Greek services, and pointed out our tacit acceptance of this situation was predicated on assumption GOG could control situation, both provocations against Turk-Cypriot community causing local incidents, as well as such problems as rotation of Turk contingent. Importation of heavy hardware created provocatory situation. We do not know what Turkish reaction will be. Thimayya has reported to UN that some of missile equipment had arrived on island and it would not be long before Turks became aware of it.5 Our point of view is simple. Situation has worsened. If there are advantages in having Greek forces engaged in Cyprus can we expect GOG to assume responsibility for maintenance of order and prevention of provocations? Matsas protested that GOG could not exercise complete control over GOC activities. Present degree of control has benefits for NATO since otherwise weaponry would be in hands of young EOKA men or raw recruits of Cyprus National Guard.

Talbot pointed out we have concerns at different levels, but related: (1) question military and intelligence people are asking—whether Greek forces sent to work with Soviets or Egyptians had been trained or had intelligence of Nike missiles since contacts brought about might provide [Page 370] opportunity for Soviets to acquire information on NATO forces or missile operations of NATO; and 2) our assumption that if NATO military personnel, even though released, but subject to residual authority of NATO government, come into contact with highly sophisticated Soviet equipment, government concerned would discuss this with NATO. Matsas engaged in form and substance arguments. It was finally agreed form might not be violated if personnel released from service but matter of substance still important since training on Soviet equipment provided opportunities for obtaining some knowledge of NATO equipment. Matsas comprehended security aspect and promised to seek further explanation. He rephrased problem as need for GOG to persuade USG whatever Greece has done has not been harmful to NATO interests. Mr. Ball repeated we are not concerned with form but with larger considerations—that Greek personnel presumably owe allegiance to GOG, in position of operating Soviet equipment, with Soviet training, and this should be formally reported to NATO.

Talbot raised question of effect of recent shipments of heavy equipment on SC meeting March 17 and extension of mandate of UNFICYP. He noted that in past SYG has taken position sovereign nation has right to import arms for self defense but these heavy arms raise question whether action is in accordance with earlier resolution. We do not know what difficulties this will cause for SC meeting or who would be charged with responsibility. Matsas said GOG could not be charged since it had not told GOC to buy arms and had not been able to prevent. There was no consensus on what might develop in UN as result recent shipments.

Under Secretary said we have been trying with enormous effort to bring about some kind of settlement of this perpetual turmoil at some cost to our interests since role of peacemaker is never easy. He supported Mr. Talbot’s statement of difficulties new situation has placed in way of progress toward settlement and correctness of our assumption that in light of our involvement so far we were entitled to more candor in connection with buildup than had been case.

Matsas asked for examples of what might be done to put situation in perspective. Ball replied with statement of some possible immediate steps: 1) arrange avoid having missiles emplaced, if erected put under control of UNFICYP, and 2) further deliveries of heavy equipment, such as 100 mm. guns, stopped; 3) rotation, that it take place without conditions in accordance with assurances we understand have been given. Matsas said GOG did not have degree of control to stop deliveries, noting it would have had chance had there been no aerial aggression or no Turkish threat. Ball noted that provocative nature of this equipment is the real question, together with effect it has had on Archbishop’s position, causing him to take harder, more inflexible line. Matsas said putting weapons under UN control would certainly be resisted by GOC and [Page 371] would require change in UN mandate. Under Secretary said it was matter of speech. They need not be controlled, they could be neutralized under UN.

Matsas queried whether there was any indication yet of Turkish reaction. Ball replied we had no idea, but there are number of reasons for avoiding stirring up Turks when we should be working to bring about settlement. He noted we had been encouraged by indication GOG in congratulating new Turkish PriMin had hinted willingness to talk. Matsas referred to Mediator’s report, surmised it would contain suggestions for formal conference or other less formal way of consultations to move toward settlement and asked whether USG knew conclusions of Mediator. Talbot replied in negative.

Conversation concluded with Under Secretary’s noting we would await more information from Matsas. Matsas indicated he would discuss further with Talbot on Tuesday.

For Athens: Aide-mémoire and Matsas’ line indicate Greeks have not understood, and do not yet agree, with our assessment of unfortunate consequences particularly with regard to negotiations for settlement which introduction of missiles, AA guns and tanks has caused. Matsas indicated he did understand our NATO concern for security aspect. We do not want to chastize Greece; we do not doubt their sincerity and faithfulness as an ally. However we do believe you should follow up in Athens to convince Greeks it is in GOG’s own best interests not to dwell on explanations of past but 1) to concentrate on estimate of difficulties facing us both in present situation and 2) to examine what each can do.

As Under Secretary and Talbot pointed out, we have spent enormous effort to improve chances for negotiation of settlement, something also of vital interest to Greece. Realistically we must analyze obstacles to negotiations brought about by present tense situation, caused by buildup together with Makarios’ tougher line. Next we must examine ways and means of defusing situation. First step is neutralization of missiles. [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] reports continue indicate senior Air Force personnel are concerned with situation and are agonizing over fact missile hardware is arriving on island before crews are trained, with possibility Makarios might ask for Soviet crews. They therefore are more in tune with us on this point than GOG officials. Suggest some approach be made to them in your discretion if possible before Grivas’ consultations to solicit their efforts in obtaining action on neutralization [Page 372] of missiles and some delay in future shipments mentioned by Under Secretary.6

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 CYP. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Bracken, cleared by EUR, and approved by Talbot. Repeated to Ankara, London, Nicosia, USUN, and Paris for USRO.
  2. Not found.
  3. Telegram 1048 to Athens, March 12, reported on discussions between Ball and Greek Ambassador Matsas in which the Under Secretary outlined U.S. concern over Soviet armament of Cypriot forces and requested an explanation of the role of the Greek Government in these developments. (Department of State, Central Files, DEF 19–6 USSR–CYP)
  4. Telegram 1359 from Athens, March 15, transmitted the text of a Greek note denying any involvement in arrangements for the supply and training of Cypriot forces with Soviet arms. (Ibid.)
  5. Belcher reported on Thimayya’s views in telegram 1097 from Nicosia, March 14. (Ibid.)
  6. In telegram 1101 from Nicosia, March 15, Belcher reported that the Greek Government had passed on the substance of U.S. protests on the introduction of Soviet arms to the Cypriot Government and that the Cypriot Minister of Defense had called the Embassy to complain about U.S. efforts to obstruct the acquisition of these arms. Belcher believed that this move was part of a Greek campaign to demonstrate its limited control over Cypriot actions. (Ibid., POL 27 CYP)