119. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • The Cyprus Crisis


  • Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State
  • Joseph J. Sisco, Under Secretary for Political Affairs
  • Robert J. McCloskey, Ambassador at Large
  • William Buffum, Assistant Secretary, IO
  • Lawrence Eagleburger, Executive Assistant to the Secretary
  • Edward P. Djerejian, Special Assistant to Under Secretary Sisco (Notetaker)


  • Robert S. Ingersoll, Deputy Secretary of State
  • Arthur Hartman, Assistant Secretary, EUR
  • William Hyland, Assistant Secretary, INR

Sisco: My judgment is that Prime Minister Karamanlis would be supported by the moderate wing of the Greek military. General Bonanos, who worked out the ceasefire, is not an extreme right-wing officer of the type that supported Ioannides. Karamanlis will have the support of the moderate military factions in the Greek Army.

Kissinger: But Karamanlis will have to govern democratically, which means the left in Greece will have to be unleashed.

Sisco: He would have the support of all the political leaders. Karamanlis is not an Ecevit. Karamanlis is a conservative. As long as he gets along with the military government, I think the possibility of the left being unleashed in Greece to introduce a man like Papandreou is an unlikely scenario.

Kissinger: My prediction is that Karamanlis will legalize the left. The Greek Army is demoralized. Within a year there will be an active left-wing movement combined with other political movements in Greece. Of course, this is a better government for us domestically here in the United States. It would be easier to work with. But we will see.

The nightmare now is that in the Mediterranean littoral many countries are turning away from political party rule and are turning towards the military. For example, in Portugal there is a movement [Page 394] toward the military. In Spain, with Franco’s imminent demise, the military could come into power. Coupled with the events in Greece and Turkey, the whole northern littoral of the Mediterranean is in a state of political flux. These are realities. It is not a question whether we like military rule or civilian rule.

Sisco: Let us reserve judgment for the moment.

Kissinger: Where are we now from the foreign policy view?

Sisco: I want to add one point. Concerning the Geneva conference, I do not think there can be a meeting in Geneva without the Greeks being represented.

Kissinger: Is there any possibility of that?

Sisco: We have word that Callaghan may be talking about going to Geneva without the Greeks.

Kissinger: Get me Peter Ramsbotham on the phone.

Eagleburger: If they are expecting Buffum in Geneva, we ought to warn them that he may not be coming.

Kissinger: Will Karamanlis accept Makarios?

Sisco: I don’t know. What is important, however, is this middle group of officers.

Kissinger: You can’t be sure of how influential the military will be in Greece now. Karamanlis will not be a figurehead ruler. In fact, I am not sure General Bonanos can decide what will happen in Greece.

Buffum: I wonder if the military will be discredited after the politicians come to power.

Kissinger: The military has changed the balance of forces inside Greece. It will not be easy to override a civilian government in Greece.

McCloskey: Karamanlis will be more receptive to Makarios initially. We may have to think differently about Makarios.

Kissinger: We can go either way. Clerides emerged faster than we expected.

Sisco: Makarios has sent a message through the British to Clerides.

Kissinger: I saw that.

If a slight right-of-center government is established in Greece, we are fine. Also, if a left-center government comes to power, it would be a development which we could not have controlled or influenced in any case. If we had overthrown that government last week, we would be in deep trouble. There would have been no restraints on Turkey. We would have been blamed in Greece. This government fell on the basis of its own incompetence. If Greece goes left, it is because this gang destroyed the political process in Greece.

Sisco: Ioannides and General Bonanos were there when I met with the Greek Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. It is interesting that [Page 395] Ioannides left before the meetings were over, but General Bonanos stayed throughout the meetings.

(McCloskey hands a copy of Makarios’ message to Clerides2 to the Secretary.)

McCloskey: You’ve got to be really cool to send a message like this.

Kissinger: There is simply not enough of a balance of forces in Greece.

(Bill Hyland entered the office at this point.)

Kissinger: What is going on?

(Bill Hyland gave a brief summary of the latest intelligence reports on the political and military situation.)

McCloskey: Has there been any formal announcement on Clerides’ swearing-in as President of Cyprus?

Sisco: We are going to ask Ambassador Davies about Clerides. Kissinger: I want to know in what capacity Clerides was sworn in.

Sisco: The British are more worried about our jumping on Clerides than we are worried about the British doing so too quickly. It is under consideration.

Kissinger: Now it depends on the Greek Government if they want Makarios back. If that’s the case, that’s it, but let’s not rush in.

Sisco: No one is rushing in.

Kissinger: (Secretary telephoned Ambassador Ramsbotham.)

I take it the talks will not start now. We should not start until the situation gets crystallized. Is Clerides Acting President or President? We will hold off recognizing him but would appreciate it if you would do likewise. In any case, we will do nothing until we have consulted together. We will keep Buffum here until the situation clarifies a bit. Please tell Callaghan. (End of telephone conversation.)3

The British have sent a message to Nicosia on the question of the recognition of Clerides. As for us, we should avoid any act which implies recognition, but should do everything to establish contact to conduct business. I take it there are two conversations with Clerides that Davies has had.4

[Page 396]

Sisco: And a third today asking what our relationship would be.5

Kissinger: Let’s give Davies a warm and friendly reply. We need Clerides as a bargaining function. Even if Makarios comes back, we do not want Clerides to resign prematurely. Ramsbotham thinks it is going to be hard to bring Makarios back. His support in Greece will not be as strong as before. We’ve got to get Clerides enough into play so that he doesn’t quit on us.

Buffum: It is noteworthy that only a few people rallied around Makarios after his overthrow despite his reported popular support on the island.

Kissinger: Makarios told me that when his palace was attacked, he simply walked out of his office into a car and drove off. They forgot to guard the rear door.

(Deputy Secretary Ingersoll and Assistant Secretary Hartman entered the office at this point.)

We would never give support to a conference without the Greeks being there. Under present conditions, it would not be good to have a conference convened tomorrow. Tasca has to know we are not bringing pressure on the Greeks to go to a conference tomorrow.

(The Secretary telephoned Ambassador Ramsbotham.)

Your Ambassador has told the Greeks that you are prepared to start a conference without them and that this reflects U.S. support. Under no circumstance will we support a conference on Cyprus without the Greeks, and we will have no one there under such conditions. Let us separate two problems: (a) we strongly support a conference on Cyprus with Greek representation; (b) you cannot count on our support for a conference which excludes the Greeks. The day after a coup d’etat is not the day you should have a conference.

Joe Sisco is sitting here and he was prepared, had he stayed in Athens a day longer, to be named the new Prime Minister of Greece. (Laughter)

(The Secretary’s telephone conversation with Ambassador Ramsbotham ended.)6

Greece and Israel are two countries where you insult a man by giving him a Cabinet position. Whichever man gets in the other guy will try to cut his throat. In any case, we can’t do anything before matters crystallize.

[Page 397]

Hartman: It seems that General Bonanos is behind the coup.

Kissinger: There is no way the military can turn power over to the civilians in these circumstances. They can turn power over to another government and have that government start its own momentum. Then, the military can try to intervene. However, total military rule is not viable in these circumstances. A political process has to be started in Greece and the army may try to influence it later.

Depending on how strong the left is in Greece, current events will bring the left to a more enhanced position in that country. We must see how this emerges. Frankly, the army would not have turned to the civilians if it had enough credibility of its own. The Greek military cannot enforce King Constantine who, in my mind, is absolutely ineffective. The military can no longer be decisive.

Sisco: In any case, the military may not be able to avoid Makarios.

Kissinger: I agree with Sisco that the Greek military cannot decide on Makarios.

In our policy we should not oppose Makarios, since we may want to have him back.

McCloskey: How did your talk with Makarios go?7

Kissinger: Makarios was playing a rough game. He asked me if we want him out of the non-aligned bloc. I told him that I was in no position to respond on the international position of Cyprus. I said I want to see what happens in the negotiations. My thinking is that if there is a stalemate, we can support Clerides. If there is no stalemate, we could also go for Makarios. I told Makarios not to go to the Russians.

What Makarios has to get into his head is that in a crisis he cannot operate without us.

McCloskey: He knows this; he wants the U.S. to be involved.

Kissinger: He is a tough guy. I told him we do not oppose his coming back to power. Our not supporting Clerides at this point is the most meaningful gesture to him. He is an impressive figure.

Eagleburger: (Reading a cable)8 There is little chance in the next few days for the Greeks to produce someone in Geneva. Callaghan is worried about delaying further, especially because the Turks are getting steamed up. The Turks could get difficult. Callaghan is giving the go-ahead for the conference the day after tomorrow.

(The Secretary called Michael Alexander in London, the private secretary of Foreign Minister Callaghan.)

[Page 398]

Kissinger: I hope you won’t act without talking to us. What is the compulsion to have this meeting? I do not have the impression that the Turks are so upset. Please make it absolutely clear to your people that all the parties have to be there before we can do anything. We have to give the Greek Government 48 hours before they face a conference. We will handle the Turks with you. If the junta was still there, it would have been desirable to have a conference rapidly. However, in its absence, there’s no advantage to an early meeting.

(The Secretary ended his telephone call.)9

Eagleburger: Callaghan will call you within the hour.

Hartman: The Turks have given us five locations on Cyprus where Turkish Cypriots are allegedly being wiped out.

Kissinger: Get that message to Waldheim in New York.

(The Secretary had a telephone call placed to Turkish Prime Minister Ecevit.)

Ingersoll: In your conversation with Schlesinger did you release the planes.

Kissinger: Yes.

Our view on Makarios is that if he is the most logical candidate, he should go back. However, he should go back as a result of talks with us. He is not inclined to rely on the Soviet Union, at least for this week. By next Monday we should have a good read-out on the situation when I next meet him. If the Greek Government wants Makarios and the Turkish Government does not have any objection, we have no objection.

Ambassador Davies should give us an assessment of the balance of political forces on the island.

(Mr. Hyland entered the office again.)

Hyland: Clerides has been sworn in as President of Cyprus.10

Sisco: Was there any reference to Paragraph 2, Article 44, of the Cyprus constitution?

Kissinger: I want the question answered on whether or not Makarios is the strongest man on the island. I want an analysis soon. Davies should stop just short of recognition but should establish some relationship with Clerides.11

[Page 399]

(The Secretary spoke on the telephone to Turkish Prime Minister Ecevit at approximately 3:30 p.m.)

Kissinger: How do you see the situation? Mr. Prime Minister, give that view to my Ambassador. You got my cable this morning. When should the talks start in your judgment? That is a terrible mistake. My suggestion is that when there is no government, it is unfair to bring pressure on that country when they have no Foreign Minister. Give them the courtesy of forming a government. This is my personal view. I will not have the United States representative before Thursday in any event. Buffum will not come before Thursday.

(While awaiting a response from Ecevit, the Secretary stated the following to the group in the office: they want to open a conference and sit there and wait for the Greek. Larry, call Alexander and say that we have learned that Callaghan and Ecevit have agreed to a conference this Wednesday in Geneva without the Greeks.)

(To Ecevit on phone) We will not send anyone before we know the Greek Government has agreed to send someone to Geneva. You should proceed with what you have agreed to do. I have no right to get in the way of an agreement you have made with the British. Nevertheless, I would prefer to know that all the parties are coming. They do not have a government at this point. How can you hear anything from them when they don’t have a government? (End of telephone conversation)12

The British have an agreement with Ecevit that Foreign Minister Gunes and Ecevit will meet without the Greeks. Tell the British I want to inform them of the following: Ecevit told me they agreed to meet in Geneva, regardless whether the Greeks came or not. If the Greeks are not there, they will wait for them in Geneva. This will look like the raping of the Greeks and will only reinforce the myth of a U.S.-UK- Turkish rape of Greece. It would undermine any civilian group coming to power in Greece. We made no move without checking it with the British. We are astonished at this decision and we think it is a horrible idea. In sum, until we have official word from the Greeks, there will be no U.S. representative in Geneva.

Sisco: The principal reason the Greeks indicated that they would go to a conference is because the U.S. would be there.

Hartman: Have the Turks been in contact with the new Greek Government?

Kissinger: I don’t care. It is an insane idea to bring pressure on a government that has just been formed. Call Callaghan’s office. What is [Page 400] the hurry? Ecevit is responding to British pressures. Until the U.S. Government gets definite information from the Greek Government, there will be no U.S. representative in Geneva. We would request also that they take no further unilateral steps.

By the way, Ecevit told me that Clerides has a great advantage in that he has the shade of legality. Ecevit told me that his Ambassador in Athens would check with the Greeks before Greek Foreign Minister Gunes goes to Geneva. If at the end of this Makarios comes back and it emerges after a U.S.-UK-Turkish gang-up on Greece, the Greek Government will be against us from the beginning.

(Eagleburger and Hartman left the office.)

Sisco: This is an attempted pre-emptive move by Callaghan. He wants to display assertive leadership. He says he has Parliament behind him and he thinks he can force the Greek hand. He is mistaken. The UK could play such a leadership role only if they maintain their credibility with the Greeks and the Turks.

Kissinger: If their first act is to restore Makarios, it would undermine the new Greek Government.

Sisco: They will adopt a pragmatic approach by dealing with Clerides for the time being.

Ingersoll: Did you get any feeling from Ecevit?

Kissinger: Ecevit wants to keep the Turks in Cyprus. He does not want Makarios back. Therefore, if the conference brings Makarios back, it should not be done by our imposing him on the reluctant Turks. It is not in our interests to shove him down the Turkish throat. It is possible that after two years Makarios will call for a unitary Cyprus which is against Turkish perceptions.

Sisco: Ecevit is trying to bridge the political gap in Turkey. The young leftists support him. Yet he cannot stay in power without the Turkish military. Therefore, the reason he is adopting the position he presently advocates is because he is trying to take care of both his political left and the military at the same time.

Kissinger: In the beginning Ecevit was interested only in increasing Turkish forces on the island and gaining access to the sea for the Turkish Cypriot community. However, by later adding the conditions of removing the Greek officers from the National Guard and returning Makarios to office, he knew the package would not be acceptable to either Makarios or to the Greeks. In fact, the first thing he said to Joe Sisco was “Now I don’t care who becomes President.” If we wants legality, he can get Makarios. If one analyzes this, any Makarios return to power would be bad for the Turks. Makarios is capable of unifying Cyprus. Also, he will try through the UN to get the Turkish forces pushed out of Cyprus in the future.

[Page 401]

What the Greek Government wants I do not know. Perhaps Clerides is the best solution to the situation on Cyprus. As for the United States, we cannot impose Clerides, or, for that matter, back Makarios before the Turks and the Greeks have either acquiesced to Makarios or decide to oppose Makarios. If both the Turks and Greeks acquiesce to Makarios, it is okay. If both oppose Makarios, then we should go for Clerides. What we cannot have is a conference between the UK and Turkey opting for Makarios. The Greek Government could then blame it on us.

Buffum: The Turks could not accept Makarios without radical structural changes on Cyprus.

Hyland: Clerides was sworn in as Acting President of Cyprus.

Kissinger: What is Rodger Davies’ perception of his role? When he talks to Clerides, what signal is he giving? We better get guidance to Davies. He should understand that he should be extremely friendly to Clerides and just stop a shade short of recognition.

Sisco: We will have instructions sent out to Davies immediately.13 Davies has said that Clerides will have Cypriot support and can maintain himself in office. In my view, Rodger has been superb during this crisis.

Kissinger: I agree. Davies has done very well.

Hyland: Clerides told Davies that the Turks are moving heavy armor to other areas and that a Turkish offensive may be expected at dawn. Clerides urged that a message be sent to Turkey to cease and desist and to prevent a massacre on the island.

Sisco: These reports are coming from the right-wing military in Greece who are out of the picture. They are trying to give a rationale for intervention.

Hyland: In that respect, one general has claimed that there is a full-scale war on Cyprus.

Kissinger: Davies needs to know what he has to do. He has done an excellent job.

By the way, it’s good to have you back, Joe. You know I can’t do without a loyal opposition here. (Laughter)

(Eagleburger and Hartman returned to the meeting.)

[Page 402]

Eagleburger: I gave them hell.14 Their final answer is that they have not agreed with Ecevit. If they learn tonight that the Greeks are not coming, then they will put off the conference for 24 hours. The Brits are getting in touch with Gunes to put if off and, in any case, they will not go tomorrow. I underlined your view that if there are no Greeks, there should be no meeting and that there should be no unilateral moves. Also, I stressed that we would like to be consulted.

Kissinger: The British tell us that unless they get word from the Greeks that they will not be there, there will be a conference. The problem is that there is no Greek Government to tell them they are coming or not. This is all a fabrication. For seven years they have been screaming for a Greek civilian government. It is not in their interests now to kill this government. In any case, they should avoid a UK-Turk or U.S.-UK-Turk gang-up on Greece. If Callaghan must go to Geneva, he should go and have separate meetings with the Greeks and the Turks.

Sisco: If the UK forces bilateral meetings with Turkey before the Greek Government is ready, then this can topple the Greek civilian political leaders from rule.

Eagleburger: We have a problem with reporting from Athens. The Embassy seems to be making direct approaches in Washington to the NMCC.

Kissinger: That is totally unacceptable. We must direct Ambassador Tasca that the Embassy should not make any approaches in Washington in any other channel than directly to me. At no level are they to call the NMCC. What we need now is clear reporting on the actual situation in Athens. Who is doing this at the Embassy?

Eagleburger: Whoever is doing it is working under Tasca’s orders.

Kissinger: I have never seen such incompetence.

If you have the Greeks demonstrating in the streets, it means the military is finished. Under those conditions Greece cannot go to war. In the instruction to our Embassy in Athens tell them to inform the Greek Government we will not be sending a representative to Geneva before they have made their decision to go there themselves. Also, elicit from them a sense of timing.

As for the Turks, give Macomber in Ankara a feel where we stand, especially in relation to my conversations with Ecevit and what our position is on the Geneva negotiations.

On Clerides, we cannot tell until the governments have made their positions clear.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of Henry Kissinger, Entry 5403, Box 9, Nodis Memcons, August 1974. Secret;Nodis. The meeting was held in Kissinger’s office.
  2. The message reads: “I have just heard the news that Sampson has resigned and you have assumed the duties of acting president according to the constitution. Until I return to Cyprus, you shall preside over my council of ministers with the exception of Odysseus Ioannides, who is hereby dismissed.” (Telegram 159167 to Nicosia, July 23; ibid., Records of Joseph Sisco, Entry 5405, Box 21, Cyprus, 1974/75)
  3. Kissinger spoke with Ramsbotham at 3:04 p.m. (Transcript of telephone conversation; Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 384, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File)
  4. Reported in telegrams 1680 and 1681 from Nicosia, July 23. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1974)
  5. Presumably a reference to telegram 1663 from Nicosia, July 23. (Ibid.)
  6. Kissinger spoke with Ramsbotham at 3:23 p.m. (Transcript of telephone conversation; Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 384, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File)
  7. See footnote 4, Document 114.
  8. Not further identified.
  9. No record of this conversation has been found.
  10. Hyland held a teletype conference at 3:25 p.m. with members of the Cyprus Task Force. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 123, Geopolitical File, Cyprus, Chronological File)
  11. Davies had urged formal U.S. recognition of the Clerides government in telegram 1663, July 23. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 592, Country Files, Middle East, Cyprus, Vol. II)
  12. Kissinger spoke with Ecevit at 3:30 p.m. (Transcript of telephone conversation; Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 384, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File)
  13. In telegram 159994 to Nicosia, Kissinger instructed Davies: “I want you to understand that you should be extremely friendly to Clerides and that you should continue to establish effective communications and contact with him, stopping just a shade short of recognition.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Material, NSC Files, Box 592, Country Files, Middle East, Cyprus, Vol. II)
  14. Eagleburger spoke with Alexander at 3:45 p.m. (Transcript of telephone conversation; ibid.)