221. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Representative John Brademas (D–Ind)
  • Representative Paul S. Sarbanes (D–MD)
  • Representative Benjamin S. Rosenthal (D–NY)
  • President Gerald Ford
  • Lt. General Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs


  • Turkish Aid Cutoff

President: I appreciate your suggestion for the meeting. No one is happy with the present situation. There is a stalemate, and unless something is done, there is no hope for progress.

Henry has met with you.2

Late action was the Turkish Cypriot declaration of an autonomous state.3 The Greek Cypriot went to UN.

Henry saw Bitsios on March 7.4 Then he went to Ankara on March 10.5 He met there with all the Government people and the political leaders. You know about the Turkish political stalemate. All the key leaders are outside the Government. Everyone seems to want to negotiate, even Makarios’s stalemate is sound, but we are on dead center. I am willing to listen, but we can’t let this drift. It is very harmful. With the problem with Portugal we don’t need any in the East Mediterranean, and in the Middle East.

Brademas: Thank you for seeing us, Mr. President. We all want a solution. I told the Greeks we want to support aid to Turkey. We have been restrained—we have made no statements since January. We only put the legislation in when the United States didn’t condemn the occupation.

We think it is a fundamental principle that arms shouldn’t be used against the purposes of the Act. We think Kissinger has focused more attention to turning Congress around than to turning Turkey around. [Page 719] We would give 24 hour service if we got some Turkish concessions. We react at pressure on Congress to turn around without movement by Turkey. A self-fulfilling prophesy isn’t intransigence. What concessions have they made? Look at the displaced persons; there are 200,000; their plight is terrible. We want to see free passage between Nicosia and Famagusta. We want to see refugees return to Famagusta. If there is an attempt to restore the aid without any progress, there would be bad results in your relations with Congress. Also with the Greeks.

The Secretary of Defense came up with the waiver approach.6 We are not saying this is the right way, but it lets the Turks save face. If we knew in advance there was movement, we would agree to keep quiet and let you go ahead. We wouldn’t agree to this as an ice-breaker, but there would be no public move after a pre-agreed agreement.

Sarbanes: The principle of not making arms available for aggressive purposes is fundamental. To scrap it would have very basic implications not only for Greece but for all the other countries. It would be a turning point. I am thinking especially of the second Turk move, although the first could be considered a provocation. We told Kissinger that if Turkey would make some substantial moves—to let 40–50% of the refugees return home—that would at least be a gesture to let things go forward. We have stayed very quiet and haven’t demagogued, but the Turks couldn’t get anything before 5 February, and what they proposed wouldn’t have been enough. Schlesinger brought up the waiver bit; we don’t know if this is the thing, but it shows constructive thought.

There are fundamental differences in conception between the State Department’s view of the pressure we put on Turkey and ours. We looked at the cables; we talked to Macomber, etc., and Macomber has acted as an agent for Turkey. The United States has said the Congressional act wasn’t wise—that is understandable, but to say we are trying to get it reversed is to encourage intransigence. We object to reversing the decision—it is a matter of principle.

We recognize the Turks hold the cards and they have to get much of what they want. They clearly hold more than they intend to keep— particularly in Famagusta.

If they had let 25,000 refugees go back before February, we could have lifted it for 4 to 6 weeks.

[Page 720]

If we could get some agreed movement which we could then use for the waiver, then there would be movement and then we would lift it.

Rosenthal: Everyone wants a settlement. The Greeks do. The Turks do. They don’t want to rupture NATO for Cyprus. They are closer than anyone realizes. They own 40 percent—I think they would go to 35 percent right away. The Greeks would go to 25 percent, so someone has to put it together at 29 percent. So how do we get a move? Kissinger says Turkey won’t move under pressure. But if they could be brought together and agree to a first step, if we could lay out a scenario for a concession in two months, we could keep quiet for the 614 waiver. Then if there is more progress, then we would lift the cutoff.

President: I have tried to play square with the Congress. I couldn’t say adequate progress has been made, because it wasn’t right. There was a point where we were fairly certain on Famagusta, the airport, but with the cutoff close the Turks wouldn’t do it. They have a tough problem. Anyone who makes a major agreement there just before an election would be facing that in an election. There is 614, but the cutoff supersedes it. A lawyer would argue it supersedes 614 and I would be on shaky ground.

Brademas: I am not sure of it. We have looked into it. Some say yes and some say no.

Sarbanes: I think it can be argued either way. What we feel is that if it were being done as part of a package to get a concession, we wouldn’t challenge it and you can make a reasonable case.

President: Everyone is getting by on principle but me. You want explaining.

Sarbanes: But you have publicly asked for a reversal.

President: But we have abided by the law.

All: And we appreciate it.

President: But you are putting me in this weak position.

Sarbanes: Only for a week.

Rosenthal: Then we would propose lifting the act.

President: But it does put me in a bad situation. I discussed it with Kissinger. They have a bad situation. They can’t form a government. They have high national pride. They will come off better than last July, but there must be a better way than for me to make a dubious legal decision. You know I had the leaders down to see if there was a way out. Scott and we came up with this waiver provision. They had hearings and have held it up—you talked with them.

Rosenthal: We want to cooperate with you and not embarrass you. Any other way is OK.

President: I just don’t think I can go that legal route.

[Page 721]

Sarbanes: [Gets out a map]7 If the Turks lifted this red line, that would take care of 40 to 50 percent of the refugees. They clearly don’t intend to hold it. That would be a gesture.

President: I don’t think the settlement is the real problem. It is getting it started.

Here is the waiver. Is it completely unacceptable?

Rosenthal: It wipes out 8 votes in the House and 7 in the Senate.

Brademas: The basic one is this: Do you give priority to a Cyprus settlement or to your premise that Congress was wrong and should reverse itself? If it’s the former, we will help; if it’s the latter, we will fight. But all the pressure has been on the Congress. If a waiver isn’t the right way, we will work with you.

President: Let me be frank. We have made tremendous pressure. But they have a domestic situation.

Rosenthal: Right, and they don’t want to be blamed in an election.

Scowcroft: How about getting it through the Senate first and using that with the Turks? Would that be acceptable?

[Much discussion]

Sarbanes: This could put the Senate on the spot.

[More discussion]

President: Let me summarize. We do this as part of a package. As a consequence of the Senate acting, Turkey would have to make concessions, then the House would act.

Rosenthal: If there is some agreement with the Turks that this would happen.

Sarbanes: The bill would have to be modified; right now it is total reversal.

President: If they are moving to an agreement there is no sense not to. Both sides want a settlement and I don’t think we need to worry.

Brademas: We would have to bring the Senate in.

Rosenthal: I think keeping the pressure on is a good idea.

President: I think you would have to have some faith in us. We will push—we don’t want this problem to fester.

Sarbanes: I think we must know what concessions the Turks will be willing to make.

President: I think Brent’s suggestion is a starting point. I will consult with Kissinger.

[Page 722]

Rosenthal: You are going to have to lean on Macomber.

Brademas: Kissinger is a little impatient with us right now.

President: We will go to work on it and Brent will keep you informed.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 281, Memoranda of Conversations, Presidential File, January–May 1975. No classification marking. The meeting was held in the Oval Office.
  2. See Document 172.
  3. See Document 176.
  4. See Document 179.
  5. See Documents 218220.
  6. Section 614 of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended, would allow for the use of FY 1975 MAP funds to Turkey if the President determined it necessary to the security of the United States. The Department informed Kissinger of the amendment in telegram Tohak 39 to Athens, March 8. (Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Trip Briefing Books and Cables for Henry Kissinger, 1974–1976, Box 7, TOHAK 3, 3/5–22/75)
  7. All brackets are in the original.