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

1663. DCM, who prior to my return last night acting as Charge, called on FonMin Costopoulos yesterday evening at latter’s request. Pilavakis, Director Fourth Political Division (including Cyprus affairs), was also present.

Conversation, which lasted almost three-quarters of an hour, was dominated by highly emotional recapitulation by Costopoulos of well-established GOG theses on Cyprus question.

Costopoulos began by saying that he was speaking as friend and that he would like to know what is real mission Senator Fulbright. It must be clearly understood that Greece cannot be expected to make further sacrifice with regard to Cyprus problem. Greece had received the visits of Ball, Tuomioja, Stikker and now Fulbright; Mr. Rusk and the Canadian Minister for External Affairs had only that morning requested to see Costopoulos at The Hague—obviously in connection with Cyprus. There is no reason in justice why Greece should be called upon to abandon the basic principles of democracy in Cyprus because Turks are obstructing self-determination and exerting unjustifiable pressures in other areas of Greek-Turkish relations.

DCM replied he was certain FonMin appreciated personal stature as well as key position of Senator Fulbright in conduct American foreign relations, that Fulbright was coming principally reflect deep concern felt at highest levels of USG with regard possibility increasing deterioration in Greek-Turkish relations and to inform himself at first hand with regard to views of GOG. He emphasized Senator Fulbright not coming to propose a solution and that USG strongly supports role of UN Mediator in evolving political solution.

Costopoulos spoke with considerable heat and bitterness regarding recent emergency session of NAC and Birgi’s attack2 during session. He said he wanted USG clearly to understand Greek-Turkish confrontation during forthcoming Ministerial Meeting would be catastrophic and that precise consequences might be difficult to anticipate. History of Greek-Turkish relations did not begin only in December 1963, and in the event that this question became a matter of debate in the NATO Ministerial [Page 82] Meeting, Greeks would be forced open long dossier of grievances against Turks. Costopoulos was particularly bitter in his references to Stikker. GOG had been shocked hear NATO SYG say that in event of a Greek-Turkish conflict it would be difficult for NATO allies to intervene and that foreign aid would likely be terminated.3 Costopoulos said GOG had impression Stikker’s activities were encouraging Turks pursue an intransigent policy, and that even though as a legal proposition there might not be an obligation for NATO allies intervene, it was impossible to consider that the allies (by inference the US) could stand aside indifferent to the moral obligation support Greece in event of Turkish attack.

DCM said that he was confident NATO SYG not encouraging Turks adopt more aggressive attitude but that Stikker expressing personal point of view based on his own responsibilities to the Alliance. Moreover, Stikker was personally convinced that GOT on verge of military intervention at moment of attacks on Saint Hilarion. US is well aware that open debate during NATO Ministerial Meeting might well not be constructive but that we do hope that it might be possible during forthcoming meeting to create situation where Greek-Turkish discussions on bilateral issues might be contemplated. Visit is precisely in order to avoid intolerable circumstances in which US would be placed in event of Greek-Turkish hostilities that US bending every effort to encourage restraint on respective parties and wholeheartedly supporting efforts of UN Mediator. US believed enhanced effectiveness of UNFICYP, the recent statements of Makarios, and Papandreou’s recent intervention with Makarios would produce circumstances in which more rational atmosphere would prevail in Cyprus and make more rapid rehabilitation of situation possible. USG had been gravely concerned at moment of Greek-Cypriot attacks in Kyrenia Road area that Turkish military intervention might occur. Because of impossible situation which would have been created in event of Greek-Turkish hostilities USG had intervened with Papandreou and Inonu and President Johnson had asked Senator Fulbright to visit Athens and Ankara. Moreover, although GOG quite naturally separates Cyprus problem from other Greek-Turkish bilateral problems, it is perfectly apparent that GOT possesses capability of exercising tremendous pressures on Greek interests in Istanbul and elsewhere. Consequently, we must proceed in full recognition of tactical situation as it exists and in such a manner as to limit damage to Greek interests, to Greek-Turkish relations and to Alliance.

Costopoulos alluded to recent Khrushchev statement regarding Cyprus,4 pointing out Soviets are very skillfully taking position which [Page 83] would commend itself to Greek opinion. DCM acknowledged GOG faced with delicate political problem in attempting to prevent Communists and extreme leftist elements in Cyprus and in Greece from monopolizing strong nationalist role and exploiting deep-seated popular emotions on this issue. Costopoulos suggested that if Greece were abandoned by all of her allies in her search for democratic solution to the Cyprus problem, it would be only natural for the Greek people to look with increasing favor on those who were prepared to support them, i.e. USSR. He also observed that if the situation deteriorated further it would not be British, concerning whose policies all Greeks are cynical, but the Americans who would be held responsible in public mind.

Comment: Although courteous, Costopoulos was so deeply emotional that comprehensive, rational discussion would not have been possible. GOG obviously suffering from deep-seated apprehension that Greece will be called upon to make unacceptable sacrifices (exchange of populations, territory, etc.) as price for Cyprus settlement. There is little question Fulbright visit following that of Stikker and recent more cheerful utterances of Erkin following Washington talks present themselves in Greek eyes as preliminaries to such a maneuver. In light volatile quality Costopoulos’ presentation, we concur Department’s effort (set forth Paris Topol 1695)5 encourage discussion Greek-Turkish problems through bilateral conversations rather than in plenary NAC session.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 23–8 CYP. Secret; Priority. Repeated to London, Ankara, Nicosia, and Paris for USRO.
  2. At a May 2 special meeting of the North Atlantic Council, Turkish Permanent Representative Nuri Birgi read a long statement attacking Greece’s support for Makarios. Polto 1593 from Paris, May 2, reported on Birgi’s statement and the Greek response. (Ibid.)
  3. Stikker made this point to both Greek and Turkish officials. (Telegram 1651 from Athens, May 2; ibid.)
  4. In a May 4 interview in Izvestia, Chairman Khrushchev supported Makarios’ position.
  5. Topol 1695, May 4, cautioned that continued discussion within NATO forums could further exacerbate tensions between Greece and Turkey and suggested instead that Stikker encourage a direct meeting between the Greek and Turkish Foreign Ministers during the NATO Ministerial Meeting at The Hague May 12–14. (Department of State, Central Files, POL 23–8 CYP)