262. Memorandum of Conversation1
- George Papandreou, Leader of EK Party
- The Honorable Phillips Talbot, U.S. Ambassador to Greece
- H. Daniel Brewster, Country Director, Greece, State Department
- John G. Day, Political Officer, Embassy
We called on EK leader George Papandreou today at his Kastri home and found him mentally alert and in seemingly good health.
Papandreou began by apologizing for his son’s, Andreas, recent speech before the Foreign Press Association (A–463 of March 7).2 Unfortunately, he said, “Andreas tries to be a Kennedy and a Fulbright” in the wrong setting. Papandreou called our attention to his brief statement after Andreas’ speech in which he repeated that the foreign policy of the EK remains unchanged. He added that, specfically, he does not share [Page 556] Andreas’ view concerning American interference in the internal affairs of Greece. In the past, particularly during the period of the late Ambassador Peurifoy, there was open intervention by the U.S., but in recent times, especially since the arrival of Ambassador Talbot, there has been no such interference. (Ambassador Labouisse once mentioned to him that CIA in Greece was not completely under his control). The EK leader added that he intended, during a UPI press interview this Sunday, to deny the existence of any U.S. intervention in the recent past. [Q: “Were there interventions by U.S. in the internal policy of Greece? A: Unfortunately there was—in the past. And in such an unprovoked way that they caused the disappointment of our People. During the last period however, as far as I know at least, the United States Embassy made no intervention. And it never encouraged deviation”.]3 (This quotation appeared in the UPI interview published March 19.)
Turning to the current political situation, Papandreou candidly admitted that he knew beforehand of the plan to topple the Stephanopoulos Government and to form the present transitional government. In fact, Paraskevopoulos as Prime Minister was his choice. Papandreou also admitted that he had promised the King not only to support Paraskevopoulos but also to back the simple proportional electoral system. Even though this system is contrary to the interests of the EK and is opposed by many EK deputies, he agreed to vote for it to promote the return of political “normality”.
He predicted that all EK deputies will vote for it out of respect for him as leader of the party. He also commented that ERE leader Kanellopoulos had acted as a real statesman during the past several months.
Papandreou expressed grave concern over the current activities of the “junta”. In response to the Ambassador’s question, he named Garoufalias, Pipinellis, and (retired) General Dovas as members of the junta. It also includes other retired generals and deputies who fear elections. The “president” of the junta, Papandreou added, is probably Queen Frederika.
The EK leader expressed fear that the junta might try to upset the plan for elections and to create the conditions for a dictatorship by arresting Andreas for the Aspida affair just as soon as Parliament is dissolved and he no longer is protected by his immunity as a deputy. If he were arrested, Papandreou continued, there would be no elections. There would surely be demonstrations and protests, and Andreas would become “a hero and a martyr”. In fact, the elder Papandreou added, Andreas would like nothing better than to be arrested.
The best way to avoid this danger and to ensure the holding of elections would be the granting of an amnesty for the Aspida affair. This is [Page 557] exactly what he told Bitsios, the King’s political advisor, during a conversation at Kastri yesterday. He also said to Bitsios that the EK could not publicly ask for an amnesty because “we are the accused”; the King, however, should take the “initiative” in granting it. Papandreou admitted to Bitsios that some EK politicians and deputies would point to an amnesty by the King as proof that the Palace was guilty on July 15, 1965, and that Aspida was merely a conspiracy against the EK. Though he could not prevent the press from expressing its views, Papandreou stated that he would publicly say that the granting of an amnesty was an act to promote political normality and that he would use his influence to try to persuade the EK papers to follow the same line.
Papandreou also warned Bitsios that a dictatorship would be a disaster not only for Greece but also for the monarchy. King Constantine would soon find that he was no longer master of the situation and that, on the contrary, he was a captive of the dictator, just as the King became a captive of John Metaxas in the 1930’s.
According to Papandreou, the King should take a long-range view of developments and should be less concerned over the words of Andreas. He should realize that “it is deeds, not words that count”. Papandreou asserted that, despite Andreas’ line, he, George Papandreou, is the leader of the party. Evidence of this was the vote for the Paraskevopoulos Government when Andreas disagreed, but eventually accepted the decision of his father to support the new government. In a revealing remark, the elder Papandreou told us that he would have expelled Andreas from the party for his general behavior if Andreas were not his son.
Returning to the King, Papandreou argued that the young monarch should not be worried about the elections because he was given assurances that there would be no “popular front” between EDA and the EK and that he would not raise a regime question. (Papandreou commented that he strongly believes that the institution of the monarchy is necessary in Greece.) Even if Andreas should break away from the EK and take 30, 40, or even 50 deputies with him and cooperate with 20 or 30 EDA deputies, he would still only have less than a third of Parliament and he would not be able to change Greece’s foreign policy. Therefore, according to the EK leader, the King should not be so worried over Andreas’ attacks.
Finally, referring once more to the junta, Papandreou expressed the hope that the Ambassador would use his influence in favor of an amnesty for Aspida. Papandreou obviously had in mind the Ambassador’s speaking to the King.
(Athen’s 42494 reported Papandreou’s comments on Cyprus.)
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 12–6 GREECE. Confidential. Drafted by Day and approved by Bracken. Transmitted as enclosure 1 to airgram A–491 from Athens, March 22.↩
- Brackets in the source text.↩
- Not printed. (Ibid., POL 6 GREECE)↩
- Dated March 18. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 CYP)↩