266. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • NATO and the East-West Détente; The Middle East; Cyprus; U.S.-Turkish Relations; and Viet-Nam


  • Cevdet Sunay, President of Turkey2
  • Ihsan Sabri Caglayangil, Foreign Minister of Turkey
  • Lyndon B. Johnson, President of the United States
  • Dean Rusk, Secretary of State of the United States

The two presidents met at 5:00 PM at the White House for the first of two substantive meetings during President Sunay’s state visit. After an initial exchange of courtesies, the Turkish President discussed at length, from prepared notes, Turkey’s position on NATO and the East-West détente; the Middle East; Cyprus; U.S.-Turkish relations; and Viet-Nam.

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Sunay’s Presentation

NATO —Turkey seeks national security in NATO. No sacrifice would be too great to raise Turkey’s military strength to the required level. NATO was an important force for world peace. Sunay was concerned about the effects of France’s attitude. Political rather than military devices would do most to strengthen NATO. Equality among member nations was one need.

Turkey’s position at this juncture was critical. Turks “appreciated and respected” United States commitments to Turkey, but the entire Southeastern flank would collapse if Turkey could not hold out until help arrived. Turkey’s forces were being kept strong. Soviet aims and aspirations remained unchanged. If NATO collapsed, countries bordering the Soviet Union could not resist.

Lately some East European countries had begun to pursue their separate national interests. In the atmosphere of détente, Turkish relations with Romania, Bulgaria, and the Soviet Union had begun to improve, but Turkey had no illusions. The basic guiding principle in Turkish foreign policy remained “fulfillment of commitments to allies.”

The Middle East—Conflicts among the Arabs were matters of concern. The Arab-Israeli question remained unsolved, and now there was the question of Aden. As a result of the Soviet factor, this situation was becoming more delicate.

North Africa was not a bright spot. In December, Bourguiba had told him that Tunisia sought United States assistance in view of Soviet military assistance to Algeria and Egypt.

India-Pakistan disputes produced many difficulties. Pakistan was very disappointed not to have American aid. The Pakistanis had right on their side in the Kashmir dispute; they should be helped to settle it, to prevent their turning to Red China. India would then be able to extend Western influence to Burma and elslewhere. If Iran could strengthen its armed forces, peace and security in that area would prevail.

Cyprus—Good Greek-Turkish relations, within the alliance to which both belonged, were vital for regional security. The Cyprus question must be settled peacefully before these relations are damaged further. The Turks had been patient, but Greece still wanted to annex the island. Cyprus was now a question of national pride in Greece. In Sunay’s view, solution would only be possible through mutual concessions. The gap between the communities on the island was deep; it would be difficult for them to co-exist peacefully. He suggested (a) in Turkish majority areas, Turks should be granted municipal autonomy, (b) Cyprus should be demilitarized, and (c) Turkish troops should be permitted to stay there as a guarantee of Turkish interests.

The Turks had recognized sincerity and understanding on the Greek side during the recent dialogue, but no agreement had been reached. The [Page 566] Greeks could only talk about annexation. The Greeks maintained that independence meant increasing Communist influence and decreasing mainland influence.

In the Turkish view, these arguments did not justify enosis. Greek forces have de facto control on the island today, but a solution to the problem should be possible with the help of the allies. He suggested a Turkish-Greek condominium putting an end to Cypriot independence.

Sunay reflected concern about political instability in Greece and urged that Czech arms on the island be at the “disposal” of the UN. He implied that Turkey would be willing to resume the dialogue with the Greeks when the Greek political situation permitted. The sufferings of the Turkish community on the island were a result of Makarios’ “Byzantine tactics.” Makarios must be made to see reason.

Perhaps the U.S. could help bring this about. “Turkey expects the utmost help from the United States.”

U.S.-Turkish Relations—There was real identity of interests and policies between the two countries. Their fortunes were inseparable. Turks would never forget 1947 and the Truman Doctrine. Sentiment had entered the equation, and had been an emotional shock to the Turks when the U.S. disappointed them on the Cyprus issue. Turkey had rushed to help in Korea, and had expected the U.S. to reciprocate. Our “intervention” had provoked strong criticism and charges that Turkey’s foreign policy had produced a loss of freedom of action.

The present Turkish regime wished to eliminate these wrong views. The enemies of our friendship were merely a noisy minority. We hoped his visit would aid in producing a consensus in support of Turkish-American cooperation.

Viet-Nam—President Sunay recognized the wisdom of President Johnson’s efforts in Viet-Nam for the preservation of world peace. Our policy was similar to our Eastern European policy of 1947. Sunay thought there could be no purely military solution to the problem. Under these circumstances, the Turks followed closely our efforts toward a peaceful settlement.

President Johnson’s Response

President Johnson thanked President Sunay for an enjoyable and constructive presentation. He hoped that when the Viet-Nam conflict is finally settled, people will think we did the right thing as they now think we did the right thing in 1947 by aiding Turkey under the Truman Doctrine. Fighting aggression anywhere is costly in dollars and lives, but worth it.

He was aware of strong Turkish feelings about Cyprus and mentioned the United States initiative to avert a Turkish invasion, to which the Turks had reacted. We were in full sympathy with the Turkish community [Page 567] in Cyprus and would help to see their security guaranteed. He was encouraged by Sunay’s stress on the need for a peaceful solution. Just as he regretted that peace in Viet-Nam was so elusive, he regretted that no Cyprus solution had been found.

The President noted that the topics discussed by Sunay would be discussed one by one between Mr. Rusk and Mr. Caglayangil on April 4.3

The President believed the benefits derived from some $5 billion in aid to Turkey since 1947 had been mutual. This aid was a reflection of the American people’s attitudes toward Turkey. While there might be some anti-American feelings in Turkey, there are strong pro-Turkish feelings here.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Turkey, Memoranda, Vol. 1. Secret. Drafted by Howison. The meeting was held at the White House.
  2. Sunay visited Washington April 3–5. For texts of statements regarding the visit, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1967, Book I, pp. 412–414, 418–421, and 425–426.
  3. The Department of State reported to Ankara on these talks in telegram 168638, April 4. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 CYP)