37. Memorandum for the Record1
- President’s Meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Erkin
- Foreign Minister F. C. Erkin
- Ambassador T. Menemencioglu
- The President
- Asst. Secretary P. Talbot
- R. W. Komer
The President, after greeting Erkin cordially, said with emphasis that he wished to commend the Turks on how they had acted with such great restraint and statesmanship in recent weeks. He knew what a trial the Cyprus crisis was to Turkey and how lucky we all were to have so great a man as Inonu at the helm during such a period. “So don’t lose your heads now,” he said to Erkin. “It’s always darkest just before the dawn. Give the UN a little more time to work out a solution.” Erkin agreed that Turkey had acted with “great restraint” but “we must avoid that the bill should now be paid by Turkey.” Erkin said he had told his Prime Minister the previous night how very pleased he was with his talks here and with the US attitude.
The President came back to the theme of how it was important to avoid a shooting war over Cyprus. War, as he put it, solves nothing. Our [Page 77] experience has been that the UN can finally work something out which will be acceptable to all parties in situations like these. But if people start shooting, the whole situation is changed. Other powers are drawn in and a new and far graver problem is created.
Erkin pointed out that so far Turkey had refrained from exercising their undoubted right of action in this case. Now that the UN was there, it was “not possible for us to intervene any more.”
“Inonu is a hero”, the President said. We applaud him and his policies. We will do anything we can to support the UN in working out a peaceful solution. Let’s try everything to avoid a clash. Some solution can and must be found. The President analogized to the problem of our railway settlement. It had taken five years but we finally settled it last week. We salute Inonu and were tremendously grateful that he had acted with such statesmanship at a time when others did not display the same qualities. Erkin interjected that “our antagonist took advantage of our moderation and is seeking to inflict humiliation on us.” The President granted that they were bullies but world opinion would know what they had done. He wished Erkin to tell Inonu that the President was his friend; he, the President, remembered extremely well his visit to Ankara and how he and Inonu had been waylaid by the crowds.
Returning again to the importance of avoiding a shooting war, the President commented that we are worried about some signs of Turkish preparations, for example, the cancellation of leaves. Erkin explained that “we have to be prepared.” The President replied that he should tell Inonu right away of our admiration for him and how we count on his continued restraint. “Tell Inonu”, he said, “I haven’t got a better friend. And I’m proud of your people. We are always going to be stout allies.” Erkin again assured him that the Turks would not intervene.
The President then told Messrs. Talbot and Komer to see what we could do with the Greeks and Cypriots. When Senator Fulbright was in Athens we could send him to Papandreou and tell him how concerned we were.2 Talbot mentioned that we had just urged restraint on the Greek [Page 78] Government the previous night. The President’s view was that we should be as tough as necessary. The Greeks must not humiliate the Turks. We should go in and press Makarios as well. When Talbot commented that we had used up most of our leverage with Makarios, the President’s reaction was that we should use up whatever was left if necessary.
Foreign Minister Erkin expressed his great appreciation for the President’s words and assured him that his message to Inonu would be sent immediately. Ambassador Menemencioglu mentioned that the Turks had a second bit of good news while here—they had been assured by the Department of State that the US would not support any solution which would humiliate Turkey. The President fully agreed.
As Foreign Minister Erkin left, the President gave him two medallions, one for the Prime Minister and one for himself, as a token of his admiration for Prime Minister Inonu and for the Turkish nation.
- Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Turkey, Vol. 1. Secret. Drafted by Komer. The source text is marked “Draft.”↩
On May 2, President Johnson asked Senator J. William Fulbright, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to visit Athens and Ankara for the purpose of “reinforcing” U.S. efforts to preserve peace in the Aegean region. The President outlined his objectives in sending Fulbright in a May 6 press conference statement; for text, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1964, p. 577.
Fulbright visited London May 4–6, Athens May 6–7, Ankara May 7–8, The Hague and Copenhagen May 8–13. He reported to the President on his trip on May 15. In telegram 1304 to Athens, May 2, the Department of State informed the Embassy that in addition to “fact finding,” Fulbright would seek in talks with Papandreou and Inonu, “To move GOG to restrain Greek Cypriots more effectively and to assure GOT that its policy of restraint is appreciated and will prove fruitful. He will avoid any impression that USG has preconceived plans for ultimate solution.” (Department of State, Central Files, POL 7 US/FULBRIGHT) Documentation on the Fulbright mission is ibid., Greek Desk Files: Lot 67 D 192, POL 7-Visits, Fulbright.↩
- Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.↩