185. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Secretary’s Meeting with Greek Foreign Minister Bitsios


  • Greece
  • Foreign Minister Bitsios
  • Ambassador Carayannis, Greek Foreign Ministry
  • Mr. Vlassopoulos, Notetaker
  • United States
  • The Secretary
  • Arthur A. Hartman, Assistant Secretary for European Affairs
  • William L. Eagleton, Notetaker

(Photographers take pictures.)

The Secretary: You might have to run for office in Greece.


Bitsios: After your speech in the General Assembly yesterday,2 I can afford that (proximity to the Secretary).

The Secretary: You were pleased?

Bitsios: Yes.

The Secretary: That was our basic policy.

Bitsios: It gives the Turks an idea that others understand the basic elements of the Cyprus problem and are willing to declare them publicly. We are facing immobility from Ankara.

The Secretary: I had a talk yesterday with Caglayangil.3 (Hartman leaves room to pick up piece of paper.)

They have me on a schedule where I can’t talk to my associates. The bureaucracy is gaining on me.

Bitsios: You have been in New York several days?

[Page 620]

The Secretary: Yes, since Monday.4 It is my impression from my talk with Caglayangil yesterday that he was more forthcoming than at any time I have seen him. Not that he gave me any formulas. I did not ask for any percentages, but I thought his attitude more forthcoming— but he conditioned it on the October 12 elections and on our Congressional vote. For the first time he specifically mentioned New Famagusta and Morphou as something to talk about if the constitutional arrangements are satisfactory. At first he proposed constitutional issues be decided first, but then in the course of our conversation he accepted that simultaneity could be applied. This is provided the arms embargo is lifted and the elections don’t represent a gain for Ecevit.

He said that if Denktash puts forward a territorial position, Ankara will not object.

We don’t expect your help on the arms embargo vote. I am merely explaining it to you. If it is lifted, we will make a major effort. If it is not lifted, I think the Turks will make life very difficult for us. I am not talking to Greek Congressmen this time so that there will not be any misunderstanding as there was before.

We will have a domestic mess if the embargo is lifted and there is no progress on Cyprus.

Bitsios: Prime Minister Caramanlis asked me to talk to you about the embargo. First of all, you are aware that we shall not be pleased with the lifting because we have no guarantee that the arms will not be used against us. Secondly, we will not take a public position or be active in Washington.

The Secretary: Your Embassy will not be active?

Bitsios: Our Embassy will remain neutral. Caramanlis told you and President Ford he is concerned that the Turks might get arms without a previous commitment.

A third question is how you envision making a gesture to Greece.

The Secretary: I have discussed with Jack Kubisch the possibility of sending a mission to Athens. The President and I were talking about sending a team to study your economic and military needs. We will then put it to Congress.

Bitsios: Is there a timetable?

The Secretary: No, we can discuss that. I did not want to give you a formal proposal that might have complicated things for you.

Bitsios: Re Cyprus, I don’t know what to tell you. It is clear that the reasons the Turks give for nothing happening are not convincing. On the election, if he loses, what will happen? If he wins, there might [Page 621] be general elections. However, Caglayangil has given commitments to you and to the Nine.

The Secretary: As a practical matter, if the embargo is lifted and the Turks don’t do anything, we have to—but we have to consider what is meant by lifting the embargo. The present bill is only for the pipeline and not for grant or credit aid. Some items will not be on the list. The next thing would be to lift the ban on credits and grant aid in the foreign aid bill. If there is no progress by November, those restrictions will remain. I don’t want a situation where the Greeks don’t want progress so as not to help the Turks and the Turks are unable to move. But if nothing happens we will have to take a public position.

We are working closely with the Nine. They don’t have the firepower, but they have good will. But the Turks do want to belong to the European area. Genscher and Sauvagnargues told me they will talk to you.

I have made it clear to Caglayangil that if the embargo is lifted, something must happen. I have also agreed to try with the Greek community here. I feel the situation could force us to say something.

(To Hartman): What is your view?

Hartman: Someone on the Turkish side must screw up the courage to make proposals. Ecevit’s statements have been helpful. He talks of negotiations.

Bitsios: It is a question of what forum for negotiations. I am not sure under the Secretary General is the best forum for all things.

The Secretary: I believe you should begin with him.

Bitsios: This holds back the Nine. At first they had the elements of a solution.

The Secretary: What is your idea?

Bitsios: The Nine could have done it. I asked Rumor why they did not, and he said they did not want to embarrass Waldheim. The Nine can put forward things that Waldheim cannot. And this could lead to a breakthrough.

The Secretary: If Waldheim doesn’t do it, the Europeans could do it, or we could do it, or the two of us could together. But doing it together can work only if only two or three are designated. It cannot work with nine. In my mediations in the Middle East, the practice has been—I would as soon not do it. A settlement will not be wildly popular in Greece, and I am not volunteering. Our strategy has been to get the parties to state their positions and then we narrow the positions. This must be a continuing progress.

I believe this is easier than the Middle East. We know that it will be a bi-zonal system. We know something of the powers of the central government. Re territory, you have indicated three areas of importance: [Page 622] New Famagusta, the Morphou area, and something below the Nicosia–Famagusta road.

Bitsios: Our position on percentage is that it should be proportional to the population.

The Secretary: That is your formal position, but I have been told on the Greek side 25 per cent and by the Turks 34 percent. I think it is best not to talk percentages at first. Instead, one can talk areas.

Bitsios: You can combine the two.

The Secretary: If we start with areas, the percentages might appear differently. The differences don’t seem unbridgeable.

Bitsios: No, unless they want to keep what they have.

The Secretary: Yes, if the Turks want an agreement, they can go beyond their wildest dreams of a year ago.

Bitsios: The present situation doesn’t make it easy for the Turks.

The Secretary: Caglayangil talked yesterday of withdrawal of forces. However, nothing was said with precision that could be put on paper. He has always been more forthcoming than DEMIREL. DEMIREL is very cautious. He is afraid of being accused of selling out by Ecevit.

Bitsios: Mr. Hartman says Ecevit is encouraging negotiations.

Hartman: He is pressing DEMIREL to give him his position.

The Secretary: Ecevit wants to use the negotiating issue to force early elections. He said first the government must take a position. Then he can attack DEMIREL on it. He knows that I know his previous position. He wants Erbakan out, and elections. If Ecevit were Prime Minister, we could settle Cyprus in a month. He screwed it up, though. All our calculations went down the drain. What is your idea? Should we and the Europeans both designate someone?

Bitsios: You went to Ankara and then your position weakened, so we went to the Europeans.

The Secretary: We have no objections that the Europeans designate someone—and we can also designate someone.

Hartman: It is important that this not look like international pressure on the Turks.

The Secretary: Can we keep the UN debate in low key?

Bitsios: I have discussed this this morning with the Cypriots. The Cypriots will wait until Turkish elections to see if the Turks are more forthcoming. In which case the debate would take another turn.

The Secretary: I think Waldheim should call a meeting of Clerides and Denktash within two to three weeks after the elections.

Bitsios: We must know first that Denktash will come forward with proposals.

The Secretary: I would be prepared to send someone to Ankara.

[Page 623]

Bitsios: When is the Congressional vote?

The Secretary: Tuesday.5 Art, what is the Rules Committee decision?

Hartman: We haven’t heard yet.

The Secretary: I don’t understand what the Greek Congressmen are doing. If Brademas wins in the Rules Committee, things will blow up in Turkey and sooner or later the embargo will be lifted, but it won’t do anything for the Greeks. It is beyond my ability to reason with them. I respect Brademas, but he will lose in the end, like Jackson did.

Bitsios: What is next?

The Secretary: It may be over today. If they don’t rule on it, then DEMIREL may move to kick us out. (The Secretary asked to be connected by phone to Scowcroft.) The Greeks on the Rules Committee might prevent a vote this week, but if it goes to the House we will probably win by a narrow margin. What will happen is that many people are becoming isolationists. I don’t want to give the impression we want you to help. That is not possible. If the bill doesn’t pass, the Turks might do something irreversible. If it does pass, let’s discuss what we can do.

I think Hartman should see Caglayangil to make sure he understands that if we win the vote and nothing happens, it would make our position impossible. We should tell him this before the vote. Then we wait until October 12. I should send Arthur (Hartman) to Ankara to talk to them—maybe a European should go with him. Maybe he should go to Athens also.

Are you prepared to talk about equal representation in the government?

Bitsios: That is a Cypriot problem.

The Secretary: What do they think?

Bitsios: It is difficult for them to swallow.

The Secretary: (To Hartman): What do you think?

Hartman: It is more a question of the Head of State. If that is settled, there could be agreement.

Bitsios: They will need Makarios for some time. The central government should not have too much power, so that serious divisions will not occur.

[Page 624]

The Secretary: You are willing to discuss loose powers?

Bitsios: Yes.

The Secretary: That is perhaps the way to approach it. I don’t want personally to get involved until I see the parameters.

Bitsios: You will see this with the Europeans. You can then undertake the main bargaining.

The Secretary: There is no question of pride involved between us and the Europeans. Let them designate someone and we will be in touch.

Hartman, do you think it will work?

Hartman: It will be difficult for the Europeans to get a position together.

The Secretary: Later we will need someone to drive it home. We will cooperate with the Europeans.

Hartman: It should begin under Waldheim.

The Secretary: The purpose of your trip would be to get the Turks to put something forward at the next meeting. We won’t do all the work for Greece and Turkey.

Bitsios: If you get a breakthrough we can continue the negotiations. The Secretary: Yes. If you get an agreement on territory.

Bitsios: Before I leave, I would like to know what is the linkage of aid to Greece and your dealings with Turkey? You asked about the timing of a mission to Greece. I can see the Prime Minister and tell him. We would like to have the two issues separate. We are not twins with the Turks.

The Secretary: Caglayangil said to me yesterday he wanted an official call in Turkey. I said in that case I would have to go to Greece, and he said: “We are not twins.” (Laughter)

Bitsios: We have discussed assistance to Greece in Rome. You said it should be on a grand scale. Our Minister of Finance came over here and came back with an encouraging report. We are not underdeveloped any more, but we have specific needs after seven years of military government. There are the problems of expense for petroleum and defense.

The Secretary: It is easier to do things for Greece under the condition of lifting of the Turkish embargo. To make a massive program for Greece when the Turks feel we are discriminating against them is difficult. This does not mean we need an aid program for Turkey now. Hartman): How are they linked?

Hartman: Grant aid on military supplies would be difficult if there was no aid to Turkey. There is no link on economic aid. We may put a provision in the bill and then hold up implementation on the military side.

[Page 625]

The Secretary: I would prefer a package of aid to Israel, Egypt, Bangladesh, Greece, Turkey and Portugal rather than individual bills. I don’t see any advantage of a Greek-Turkish package. I would rather have items that have a constituency be put in the same bill with others. Then the Jews and the Greeks will help us get aid through.

Bitsios: When will this be?

The Secretary: Within a month.

Bitsios: Is the assistance to Israel from your last agreement?

The Secretary: We have a demoralized and cynical country. Before, seventy-six Senators called for aid to Israel. Now Congress is in the position to blame me for what they would have done anyway. The agreement doesn’t affect what Congress would have done. There is something for Egypt.

Do you prefer a totally separate bill?

Hartman: What we are thinking of is in terms of a loan going in with the package.

Bitsios: Our concern is that with the passing of the embargo bill, we have a feeling in Athens—first, what has Turkey done?—nothing. Second, the arms can be used against Greece. So something must be done to show it is not inimical.

We are doing things to explain to public opinion that the US position on the embargo is based on strategic considerations. This attempts to explain it, but there will be things you can do to sweeten it.

The Secretary: We are willing to send a team to look at economic and military needs. I would be willing to submit to Congress a onetime loan and grant and credit military package. That (the loan) can be announced when you want it.

Bitsios: Can I send you a message on that?

The Secretary: Yes. It would be better to announce it after the Turkish vote. Any time after the following Monday. Then we would send Hartman within a few days of the Turkish vote to Ankara and Athens. I believe the UN debate should be muted. You wouldn’t think of negotiating until after the debate?

Bitsios: No.

Hartman: Will Makarios remain here?

Bitsios: No, only for a few days.

The Secretary: We have to find out from the Turks after the elections what they can do. Then you can decide how to play the Assembly. Then get the debate over quickly.

(The group stands to leave)

The Secretary: What should we say to the press?

Bitsios: That we had a long and interesting conversation and a further exchange of views on a variety of subjects.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 274, Memoranda of Conversations, Chronological File. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Eagleton and cleared in S on October 3. The meeting was held in the Secretary’s suite at the Waldorf Astoria while he attended the UN General Assembly.
  2. Kissinger delivered his speech on September 22. On Cyprus, Kissinger stated that the status quo must not be permanent and an equitable solution was imperative. For text, see Department of State Bulletin, Vol. LXXIII, No. 1894, October 13, 1975, pp. 545–553.
  3. See Document 236.
  4. September 22.
  5. September 29. The House voted 237–176 on October 2 to partially lift the embargo per S. 2230 but with an amendment requesting the President to open talks with Turkey on preventing the diversion of Turkish opium into illicit channels. Ford signed S. 2230 into law on October 6. (Congress and the Nation, Vol. IV, 1973–1976, p. 867)