183. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Cyprus Negotiations


  • Greece
  • Foreign Minister Bitsios
  • U.S.
  • The Secretary of State
  • Arthur Hartman, Assistant Secretary for European Affairs

(After a discussion which has been reported by cable on the ammunition theft at Souda Bay,2 the following exchange took place.)

Bitsios: I saw Caglayangil this afternoon and he told me that the President had asked if it was possible to have a statement on the Turkish position with respect to Cyprus. He said that DEMIREL had replied that his Government could not discuss these matters with the U.S. because it does not accept that there is a link between the American embargo and the Cyprus negotiations. I said why don’t you speak to [Page 614] me—we are ready to negotiate. Caglayangil replied that Turks could not speak about Cyprus as long as the embargo is still on. You see, they are continuing to make their excuses. First, it was their internal political troubles. Now it is the embargo. Where do you think we can go from here? We want with all seriousness to have these negotiations. We approach this problem with an open heart.

The Secretary: That is what I have been telling the Turks.

Bitsios: Caramanlis told me that he was the only one who was trying to fight to get talks going in spite of the embargo and all the other things. He said that they don’t like what Caramanlis had to say. But what are we waiting for?

The Secretary: Your negotiation is the only one that I have failed to move forward. I am not saying this in any way to complain—we both know how to solve this problem. The only criticism I would have of your negotiating tactics is that you don’t take a position and stick with it. You give a little every three months and that just causes the other side to delay. The basic problem was last August. We decided that military action by us was impossible and, of course, there were other factors. If we made a mistake it was in Geneva.

Bitsios: If Mavros had known that you were behind the Turkish proposal he might have considered it more closely.

The Secretary: The mistake is that we should have taken over the negotiations from Callaghan but you will recall it was the week of the transition. If it was not for that I might have gone to Geneva myself. We could have tried to use Turkish gratitude for our attitude in order to get concessions for you but, frankly, I must tell you I am getting very tired of your supporters in the United States. I am called a murderer and a liar by all kinds of Greek Americans and I can tell you that that kind of thing does not hurt me, it hurts you. If I am going to be able to help, I can’t constantly have my prestige attacked.

Bitsios: But they are all just playing internal politics.

The Secretary: But I can tell you that the people that have attacked me usually end up being mortally damaged themselves. Jackson tried it and he got nowhere. In the end Brademas will be discredited. He has just done a stupid thing. Above all, this presents the Turks with a beautiful excuse not to negotiate. If we had won the vote,3 the Turks would [Page 615] have been morally obliged to do something. I know that your Government probably did the minimum although your Ambassador was probably a little overenthusiastic. This was mainly the actions of the Greek-American community. We have talked to Caglayangil and told him that something must happen. We have said that it is our belief that Caramanlis wants to settle this matter on generous terms but, of course, within his domestic limitations. We have said that you can get what you want if you act now. They told us they would try to come up with something. We also have encouraged the Europeans to take an initiative and we will support it.

Bitsios: I hope they are not thinking just of a démarche. That will not help us very much and that is not a good way to approach Turkey. Also Turkey might interpret it as weakness. They should have an honest feeling that we want to settle.

The Secretary: Yes, for you Cyprus is a disaster. The opposition will attack any settlement because it will not be as good a situation as before July. You know that the quicker you get a solution the better but no one knows how to move. We are effectively out of the act. Congressmen are even talking about getting a new man and taking me out but I can tell you this would lead to stalemate. They said to us at first there ought to be a discussion of the central government. What do you think we could do, Art?

Hartman: Is there any chance that we could be helpful in bringing together Caramanlis and DEMIREL here in Helsinki?

The Secretary: What is your impression?

Bitsios: I don’t think DEMIREL wants to meet with us.

The Secretary: Perhaps you are right. Can we think of anything else?

Bitsios: One thing you said strikes me. You said that we always put forward a position and then change it. I can tell you that the position that Caramanlis gave you is our minimum position. We do not want any further delay.

The Secretary: The history of the last year has been one of constant change on your part. First you wanted to go back to the 1960 agreements.

Bitsios: That was Mavros, not me.

The Secretary: Then you finally accepted a cantonal solution and you moved from 20 to 14 to 5 and finally to a bizonal arrangement. On territory you moved from 18 percent to 21 percent and now Makarios tells us he can accept 25 percent and a bizonal solution. By the way, the President told him he did not think that was enough. I think the Turks will settle for around 30. But the percentages are really not important. If we could go the route of specifying the territory—X, Y or Z that would be better. After all, it is more important if it is Famagusta and Morphu—then no one would care what percentage it was. [Page 616] Perhaps at some point tactically someone else can put forward the idea so that you won’t have to back it.

Bitsios: But I can tell you that what Caramanlis said is our final position.

The Secretary: But he did not specify a specific percentage.

Bitsios: Do you see any role for the EC-Nine?

The Secretary: Italy, of course, is not exactly the best intermediary. The Germans would have more influence in Turkey. Maybe I should talk to Genscher.

Bitsios: The Nine seem to be willing to get in the picture. Turkey is in a real mess and they need help and we would want others to help them.

The Secretary: How can we help?

Bitsios: Everything would be settled automatically if we could move this negotiation along. You have talked to the Nine but I think you should talk to Genscher again and then I will explain our general position. It is difficult for me to talk to the Germans before the Italians who are in the chair but maybe the Germans could go separately to the Turks.

The Secretary: If the vote should pass this week and I am not asking for your help because I think the situation in Washington is too chaotic for anyone to be of important help—the Turks will have a moral obligation to make progress but I will ask the Germans to help you. And even if we fail, we will see if the Germans can support something. One of the tragedies of the present situation is that we are now going to have to pay to get our bases reopened—and what we pay we might have used to help produce a Cyprus solution. But if you have any ideas please tell us because regardless of what Congress does we want to support your Government and we know that in the end Turkey will have to make significant concessions. We don’t want Greece to go the way of Portugal and, in my view, that is not impossible. I think five years from now your military may turn to the left too.

Bitsios: I don’t think that will happen but we are in a serious situation now and we need economic help.

The Secretary: Aren’t we moving that along?

Hartman: Yes, it is in the Foreign Assistance Act.

Bitsios: That may be too late. We need it now. If we can get our economic situation straightened out, then Caramanlis can build a strong democratic regime.

The Secretary: We really want to help but the Greek Americans have got to get off our back.

Bitsios: Some day I will be free to tell you something about our Greek-American friends. This has been a very difficult period.

The Secretary: I recognize that. They were either Junta supporters before or they will attack Caramanlis to support the left-Papandreou.

  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 August 9. The meeting took place in Finlandia Hall. Kissinger was in Helsinki for CSCE talks.
  2. Reported in telegrams 5781 from Athens and Secto 8088, both July 31. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1975)
  3. On July 24 the House voted 206–223 to reject an amended version of S. 846, which would have allowed resumption of most military aid to Turkey. The following day Turkey ordered the United States to cease operations at its 27 bases in Turkey, including 4 intelligence-gathering facilities. On July 31 the Senate voted 47–46 to pass a new bill, S. 2230, which contained the language in the rejected House bill. The House was unable to vote on the new bill before its month-long summer recess because of parliamentary obstacles. (Congress and the Nation, Vol. IV, 1973–1976, pp. 866–867)