172. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Senator Thomas F. Eagleton
  • Congressman Benjamin S. Rosenthal
  • Congressman John Brademas
  • Congressman Paul S. Sarbanes
  • The Secretary
  • Ambassador McCloskey
  • Arthur A. Hartman, Assistant Secretary for European Affairs

Rosenthal: (Hands Secretary an article from the morning New York Times on Cyprus—Secretary reads but does not comment.)

Secretary: I thought it would be a good idea to explain where we stand. I will give you our view and I want to assure you that we understand each of us will have to do what is necessary. I’ll try to be brief. First, where do the negotiations stand? There has not been much progress.

We have tried to move the negotiations along as quickly as possible but up to now the progress that has been made has really been of minor nature. I could, therefore, not recommend that the President find that substantial progress has been achieved. It is not surprising that this process does take time. After all, the negotiations in this new form only began on January 14.

On the Nicosia airport, both sides apparently want to place conditions on the management of the airport which will prejudge the management of the whole island in the later negotiations. Thus the Turks want to have equal representation on the Board which would make the eventual solution look like a bizonal concept. The Greeks on the other hand want UN, Greek and Turkish representation and they have talked about weighting the membership according to population numbers. We have tried to move the negotiators toward a proposal of a joint Greek-Turkish Board with a neutral running the airport operation. I am sure that the airport matter will be settled but it is going to take more time.

On troop withdraw, there is a paradoxical situation. The Turks have announced that 1,000 troops have been withdrawn. They also tell us confidentially that there are only 25,000 troops on the island. The [Page 585] question is did they ever have 40,000 and are they understating the number of troops they have there now? There is probably a better story to be told here but the Turks will not allow us to know exactly how many people they have—they say because of security considerations.

The Turks have announced that all shipping may now use the Famagusta harbor. This has some optical advantage but it does not really affect the situation one way or another.

The Turks have also announced that they will permit 8,000 Greek refugees to reenter the Atheniou area in territory which, while they do not occupy it, they do exercise control.

I would like to stress that in recounting these events I am not in any way trying to build the case for significant progress—I am merely giving you my assessment of the situation. Now let me analyze this for you. My understanding of the position taken by the Greek Government is that they are very anxious to settle the Cyprus problem as rapidly as possible. I have this from communications and talks with both Bitsios and CARAMANLIS. By the way, I consider CARAMANLIS to be very constructive. He has done everything he can to keep Greek public opinion calm so there is a minimum obstacle to progress. Our relations with the Greek Government are very close.

As far as Cyprus is concerned, Makarios seems to be up to playing his old game. Unlike CARAMANLIS he is not as interested in fast progress. His strategy is to allow the situation to worsen so that he can take advantage of it. He also does not wish to become an appendage to Athens but, instead, he wishes to be a force in his own right. He is anxious to create conditions that will lead to the building of international pressures and that is why he wants aid to Turkey cut off.

The Greek Government feels that the aid question is too hot to handle and does not wish in any way to be caught appearing to be against an aid cut-off even though they may realize that it will not help with negotiations. Makarios, on the other hand, wants the aid cut-off to bring maximum pressure to bear on Turkey.

Now, as far as the situation in Turkey is concerned, they have a weak government and there is no doubt that they have not wanted to produce real progress because that will look as though they are giving in to pressure.

The Prime Minister barely exists in this situation and Esenbel, as you all know, is not strong and terribly cautious. Also from their point of view an aid cut-off makes Makarios even more intransigent and then, of course, the Turks become more intransigent. I have asked Macomber to see some of the political leaders as well. Ecevit is taking the position [Page 586] that aid will be cut off in any case and he goes back to the difficulties we had over poppies and he thinks that Turkey should adjust to this and that it can no longer count on the U.S. Esenbel took the position that giving any concessions prior to the aid cut-off would lead Makarios just to pocket those concessions and, therefore, I don’t really expect very much in the talks that will take place on Monday.2

What is the situation we face? There was some chance in October that we could have made some progress with Ecevit. There was more of a chance then than there is today. The use of an aid cut-off as a weapon or lever is much more effective as a threat and I have always felt that that particular weapon would be needed at the end of the negotiation and not now when we are essentially discussing only procedural matters.3 Our estimate is that the Turks are becoming reconciled to this possibility. They are making some approaches to Iraq and Libya at a faster rate. They may also put some pressure on our bases. Over the longer term my fear is that the Left in Turkey led by Ecevit will move into an anti-American posture and that our influence on the negotiations will diminish. Today our influence in Ankara is certainly less than it was in October. The Turks are incredulous about our actions. They cannot believe that we would jeopardize our long-term security relations with an ally.

Saying all this, I want to emphasize that I am not in any way criticizing the honorable convictions of those who favor a cut-off of assistance to Turkey but I must say to you in all seriousness that I consider it to be a foreign policy disaster. It hurts the chances of a Cyprus negotiation. It will not in any way help us with the Greeks. It will be looked upon by others in the area as calling into question the good sense of the United States in taking care of our long term interests. At the same time, I can’t recommend to you that we make a finding that the terms of the legislation have been met. So, in a sense, we are all trapped.

Let me also tell you that I have tentatively made arrangements to see Esenbel and Bitsios in Brussels on the 9th and 10th but I cannot be sure that these meetings will go forward. In addition, we have tried to be helpful on the Aegean issue. We have supported the Greek suggestion that the matter be referred to the International Court of Justice. The fact of the possibility of our meetings has leaked and I am very much afraid that either Bitsios or Esenbel may now cancel.

This is where we are and I am honor bound to tell you that we must as an Administration make an effort to get this situation reversed. We will invite the leaders and explain what the situation is but I again must stress that I consider this situation to be a tragedy. I don’t know [Page 587] what you may wish to suggest and I do wish to emphasize that I consider that all of you have behaved with great fairness.

Brademas: Let me say that we appreciate your talking to us and also Paul and I want to thank you for all you did to help us with our trip. You undoubtedly have noticed that we have not made any public comment on the trip.

Secretary: Yes, I very much appreciate that.

Brademas: We share your analysis in many respects. We too see that there has been no serious progress and it looks to us as though the Turks are taking even more of a hard line. But we cannot share your view that this has been a disaster. You must see this in the context that American arms have been used in violation of the law and, therefore, from our point of view, it would be a disaster not to react. We believe that the law must be enforced and that, therefore, aid must be cut off. We think that the Turkish policies have been aggressive.

Secretary: On the point about a violation—no new commitments have been made and we have gone beyond what traditionally has been done in saying that this applies as well to the pipeline. In the past when assistance was cut off, it was usual to allow pipeline aid to continue. We told the leadership what the situation was and the leadership did not object but the trouble is that the leadership is not in control of the rank and file. The Administration applied the law delicately with the approval of the leadership.

Brademas: We disagreed with this and we told Mansfield so. We tried to be helpful and certainly if there had been any hard evidence of progress we would have worked for an extension, especially if there had been any movement on refugees.

Secretary: The refugee issue is going to be extremely difficult. Makarios is talking very tough. CARAMANLIS is strong but cannot take hard decisions by himself. On the Turkish side they seem to lack the flexibility to move in a politically sensitive situation. As a sign of how weak he is, Esenbel has not even resigned his position as Ambassador in Washington. The politicians in Turkey cannot agree to form a government. Macomber has tried to influence both Ecevit and DEMIREL to be helpful. The main key is between the Greeks and the Turks and quite frankly the differences are not all that great.

The Greeks are now prepared to accept a cantonal arrangement and they have reduced the number of cantonal areas and they are all in the north. The tragedy is that the situation is soluble through patient negotiation. But the aid cut-off forces us to be impatient. Our tactic in a negotiation like this is not to get engaged too early. If the U.S. comes in and is impatient it tends to freeze the situation. With the aid cut-off, I am not sure that the U.S. should involve itself any more in this negotiation but I will meet with Bitsios and Esenbel and decide after that.

[Page 588]

Sarbanes: We came back from our meetings cautiously optimistic. We met with all the parties involved. I recognize the problem of the time frame but the main problem here is how to get a sizable number of refugees back in some area controlled by the Turks. After all, the Turks got their people off the British sovereign base area.

Secretary: We had nothing to do with that negotiation. There was a minor Turkish concession in that they agreed to look for missing Greek Cypriots in return but Callaghan gave away his position on that in mid January.

Sarbanes: What is needed now is a substantial concession by the Turks. They should permit 60 to 80,000 Greek Cypriots to return and then, I think, we could get the deadline for the aid cut-off extended. Otherwise, there is no rational argument to change the date and we need something to justify this. It is not advisable for us to seek to press Congress to change when there is no basis. You must decide what your relations with Congress are going to be. I have read your interview with Bill Moyers and your speech in Los Angeles4 (quotes from Los Angeles speech on moral basis of policy). We have been reasonable and have not taken any cheap shots.

Secretary: I have no complaint with your conduct.

Brademas: What has been the Turkish reaction, particularly of the Armed Forces?

Secretary: They have been hoping that the Administration would get a change in policy. If we don’t they will take the stance that they can never again depend on the United States. They will also approach Libya and Iraq for help in buying European equipment. They do not see any reason to move.

Sarbanes: We must not forget what the origins of this situation were. The Turks invaded Cyprus. That is the origin of the problem.

Secretary: Perhaps we didn’t move correctly to begin with. The President could have waived the original action with respect to MAP. He could have found compliance in the beginning but we did not wish to play games. We did not wish to be accused of flouting the law. The history of this whole situation is that events have transpired in early October to prevent significant progress. The Ecevit government fell and then the whole situation disintegrated.

Rosenthal: I have to differ with the optimistic view. If this is a disaster then the law should be changed. If the cut-off stays and the Turks [Page 589] turn to Libya and become Europe oriented, then that will just have to happen. But if we wipe out this action, there will be a reaction in the American Congress because there is a deep-seated principle involved and it does not favor a pragmatic solution. I can tell you that if we here in this room don’t agree you will not get Congressional action.

Brademas: This is going to come out with no extension of the deadline. At the end of two weeks we can see what the situation is.

Secretary: I can understand your taking that position but I still think it is misguided.

Brademas: This is a whole new ballgame in Congress. If you try to get this overturned, you will be clobbered and it will not contribute to a Cyprus solution and it could worsen your relations with the Congress.

Secretary: This is what people tell me every day. The position we are taking on Vietnam will envenom our relations with Congress. The Jackson–Vanik Amendment pushed us over the cliff. Each action creates its own situation and each of us must take a personal position. I am deeply convinced that this is very bad for foreign policy. Eighty percent of this problem may be blamed on the Executive. We did not stand up and oppose the OPEC amendment in the Trade Bill. We went along with the Jackson–Vanik approach until it was too late. We did not stand up and say what was needed for Vietnam. We now have a Turkish aid cut-off because of Cyprus pressures. We are running into difficulty in getting an energy conservation program out of the Congress. The total pattern of all these actions is a massive weakness in foreign policy. I can tell you that I have never been so worried by a situation. There are no victors in this situation. Who are we going to put together to build a new consensus? The cumulative impact of all of this is tragic. Even the Chinese are beginning to wonder whether we have lost our senses and they may now try to change their weight in the balance and shift it to the third world. I am about to go to the Middle East and I am sure this is not going to make my task there any easier. In the case of the Turkish aid cut-off, we must oppose this.

Sarbanes: The only way to do that is to change the law.

Rosenthal: We want to be conciliatory but we have to reach an understanding.

Secretary: In the case of the energy conservation program, we must have a reduction of one million barrels per day. We don’t have any preference about how it should be done but we do have a concern that some program be enacted. In the Middle East look at the position we are going to be in if we separate ourselves from Turkey.

Sarbanes: But we enacted a provision which bought some time but when February 5 comes, the law must be applied.

Secretary: But the net result is going to be a worsening of U.S.-Turkish relations and also I must tell you quite frankly of [Page 590] Greek-Turkish relations. We also have the problem of the perception of others who will see this as an irrational act by the U.S.

Brademas: Suppose we gave you more time, there would be a bad Greek reaction.

Secretary: Yes, it is very difficult to get out of this situation.

Rosenthal: Why can’t the President make a determination?

Secretary: He would have to find compliance and substantial progress but if he did people would question the basis on which that determination was made.

What should we say about our talks?

Eagleton: You can say that we had an amicable discussion but that we are in basic disagreement.

Secretary: Actually we have made some progress. Since October we have managed to get the talks started. The Greek Government has made some progress in coming forward with more reasonable proposals. We think that with some time progress could be made but up to now only minor progress has been registered.

Brademas: Esenbel has in fact hardened the position in his recent public statements.

Rosenthal: The fact is that the aid cut will stand until there is meaningful progress.

Sarbanes: The aid cut will go into effect on February 5. You could extend or change the date if 70,000 refugees were allowed back into Famagusta. You could then have some time to negotiate a final settlement.

Rosenthal: Perhaps we could extend the date six months.

Sarbanes: That might be too long. Maybe just until April.

Secretary: The bad thing about this whole procedure is that we are made to appear more anxious for a settlement than the parties themselves. We are going to attempt to get the deadline extended. You should avoid any victory claim.

Rosenthal: Nothing is going to happen so that is not possible.

Sarbanes: The basis is just not there.

Secretary: Since the basis is not there, we could say that you are willing to move if some progress is made in the coming weeks.

Brademas: I want you to understand that this is not an ethnic issue. I am not anti-Turk.

Secretary: I must express my conviction that this whole procedure is wrong but I will not be aggressive in stating my view.

Eagleton: We will have to state what the law is.

Secretary: I would appreciate it very much if you didn’t say anything about my coming meetings. I am not looking for an epic confrontation. Let us keep in touch and see if any possibilities develop.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, CL 273, Memoranda of Conversations, Chronological File. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Hartman and approved in S on February 20. The meeting was held in the Secretary’s office.
  2. February 3.
  3. See Document 216.
  4. Kissinger’s interview with Bill Moyers is printed in Department of State Bulletin, Vol. LXXII, No. 1859, February 10, 1975, pp. 165–178. Background information for his January 25 speech is in telegram 16936 to Los Angeles, January 24. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1975)