354. Telegram From the Embassy in Greece to the Department of State1

3129. Ref: State 95291.2

In response to intimation I would be glad see him privately and informally, FonMin Pipinelis invited me to his home January 10. We talked two hours, covering both Cyprus (septel)3 and Greek domestic situations. Pipinelis was as friendly and forthcoming as he had been during our intensive discussions in November and early December. He grasps our concerns about status and intentions of current GOG and I believe will be helpful in Cabinet discussions.
Pipinelis first reviewed his own movements after moment at NATO Ministerial when he learned of King’s attempted countercoup, whose illogicality had flabbergasted him. Papadopoulos telephoned him three times and King once in Brussels. En route home he stopped in Rome to see King, whom he found dispirited yet still defiant. Pipinelis urged King to return to Greece immediately, as Papadopoulos had proposed on day following King’s departure. King’s refusal was mistake, in Pipinelis view.
On return to Athens Pipinelis found reorganized government already proceeding with business and committed to pursuing agreement with Turkey. Pipinelis agreed to continue in government because he believed its leaders were sincere in their announced intentions to cleanse country and restore parliamentary rule. He still believes they are. Indeed, his relations with governmental leaders have become not only friendly but even easier than with his colleagues in Kanellopoulos government last year.
I told Pipinelis we regret even temporary break in close and cordial relations we have enjoyed with Greece for many years. We continue to regard our association with Greek ally as important, and I personally am confident way can be found over present barriers to resumption of normal business. It was in that spirit that I had wished to discuss situation with him.
As background to questions I wanted to pose, I described repugnance found in United States to idea of any military takeover in Europe [Page 727] in 1960’s, extra difficulties caused us by apparent withdrawal of Royal umbrella that had more or less legitimized April 21 revolutionary government, and uncertainties being expressed in US about reality of constitutional progress. I noted that many of those who would most strongly oppose any USG decision to work normally with present GOG were drawn from same circles as opponents of President’s Viet-Nam policy and that this added sensitivity to problem. In these circumstances it would be helpful if we could be enlightened on specific plans accepted by GOG for constitutional advance as well as precise information on status of King and Regent in relation to government.

In response Pipinelis made following comments:

Constitutional draft. Draft produced by Mitrelias commission was surprisingly close to Karamanlis draft constitution of 1963, he said. In basic concepts it introduced few—too few, in Pipinelis view—changes from existing Constitution. Any fair-minded person would call it not only democratic but liberal. After draft was presented to government December 23, copies were circulated to Ministers with instructions to make comments in writing by January 6. This had now been done. Pipinelis himself had recommended inter alia some changes designed to draw higher quality persons into Parliament. He does not yet know what others have recommended. He believes Ministerial proposals would be studied very rapidly and is fairly confident that a final draft will be promulgated in near future—meaning some weeks rather than months. I commented on rumors that government has now decided to hold back plebiscite until last possible date mentioned by Papadopoulos, September 15. Pipinelis responded that on contrary he believes GOG would find a way to hold plebiscite perhaps not on first declared date, April 21 (which is Orthodox Easter), but near then. I told Pipinelis it would be helpful to us to be able to see Mitrelias constitution. He took note.
Date of elections and initiation of parliamentary government. Pipinelis thinks leaders themselves have not yet settled on date of initial elections. Many uncertainties remain, such as whether revolutionary Ministers will create their own political movement and run for office. Moreover, in his view, it would be very serious mistake to set election date at this stage of present government. From moment elections declared, no matter how distantly, political elements in country would start jockeying for advantage and moral authority of present government would be lost. It always happens thus in Greece. But this would be great misfortune in present circumstances, because this government has much important work to accomplish before leaving office—work of cleansing and reconstruction that an ordinary political government would probably not have will or strength to tackle successfully. To Pipinelis, for allied governments to press for precise date for Greek election would be error both for foregoing reasons and because it is a superfluous [Page 728] issue. Once new Constitution adopted in national plebiscite, process of return to elected government would be automatic and irreversible. Comment: From Pattakos statement in interview with Bavarian radio correspondent (septel) and other sources, we understand that ultimate date for elections is integral part of struggle now under way in revolutionary committee between Papadopoulos/Makarezos and Ladas groups. This tug-of-war appears centered on kinds of revisions to draft Constitution which the hardliners are pushing (see Athens 3122, para 4).4
Relaxation of press restrictions and establishment of judicial proceedings for detainees. New press law being prepared. This very important, since Greece must have strong and independent press but cannot afford to go back to morass that was Greek journalism until last April. He could not say when law would be ready, but thinks it likely to come fairly soon. He had nothing specific to report on judicial process for detainees.
Roles of King and Regent. For himself, Pipinelis said, it is apparent that government needs King and King needs government. Therefore, he should return soon. He has repeatedly and vigorously made this point to Cabinet. Papadopoulos has now taken firm line, however, that King should return to Greece but not now because of highly antipathetic feelings in army and general population.

Pipinelis has been unable to shake government leaders on this point, though he still trying. But this is domestic Greek issue. It is true there was a fault in manner of inducting Regent but this was due to force of circumstances and is domestic question not affecting government’s support of monarchy or acceptance of Constantine as King. If any other government has legal problems, it should be enough for that government to perceive that King has explicitly addressed leader of this government as Prime Minister and thus has implicitly also accepted Regent who swore him in. Moreover, if another government should agree that King’s role continues important, question is whether it can better help persuade GOG of this fact by avoiding contacts or by reopening working relations. He would strongly argue for latter as more fruitful course. Pipinelis added that question of King’s return is exclusively matter of timing. Neither side has put up conditions that it would be difficult for other to accept. Once decision made on date of King’s return, it would be simple to find a formula to suit interests of both him and government.

Pipinelis concluded with statement whose import was that he hopes USG can see way clear to restoration of normal business while there still time to influence present group constructively. He sees no reason to make prominent announcement of resumption of business. It [Page 729] would be possible just to pick up quietly again where matters had left off. This was what German Ambassador had done in calling on him day or two ago, and he hoped others might do it as well.
I mentioned having heard rumor that Papadopoulos is under pressure from his associates to make speech this weekend critical of posture of allies and pointed out it would be regrettable if public statement by high official should further complicate already difficult situation at this stage. Pipinelis understood, and promised to speak to Papadopoulos. I also mentioned that in situation like present one we find ourselves approached by variety of volunteer intermediaries, as presumably does GOG. One current example is Tom Pappas, who is understandably worried by interruption of direct communication between our two governments. While we appreciate desire of others to be helpful I would like GOG to understand Embassy is not using any non-official as intermediary but prefers to give and to get its impressions in direct contact with leading GOG personalities. Pipinelis took note of this as well.
We agreed to be ready to meet again in weeks ahead at instance of either of us.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 23–9 GREECE. Secret; Limdis.
  2. In telegram 95291 to Athens, January 9, the Department of State recognized the “difficulties caused” by the U.S. posture but stated it hoped to use the irregular nature of the diplomatic relationship to apply pressure on the Greek regime. The telegram instructed Talbot to seek an informal meeting with Pipinelis. (Ibid., POL 16 GREECE)
  3. Telegram 3131 from Athens, January 11. (Ibid., POL 27 CYP)
  4. Dated January 10. (Ibid., POL 16 GREECE)