224. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Ihsan Sabri Caglayangil, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Ambassador William Macomber, U.S. Ambassador to Turkey
  • Joseph J. Sisco, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
  • Arthur A. Hartman, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff

[The conversation began in the Minister’s sitting room. Photographers were admitted.]2

Caglayangil: We are very pleased to have you here in our country, particularly at a time when we have taken the new initiative of [Page 726] meeting with my Greek colleague in Rome. During the negotiations I found him to be understanding, realistic, and of the intent to reach an agreement. We are a coalition of four parties and opposed by a powerful opposition. Before leaving for Rome I had not had an opportunity to meet with the four coalition partners and the opposition, to see what the possibilities were to make concessions. Therefore, we had not the means to record progress in Rome.

Kissinger: Because the coalition partners didn’t agree?

Interpreter: He didn’t have an opportunity to meet with them.

Kissinger: Oh, he didn’t.

Caglayangil: To start with, we didn’t know that the Greeks wanted. Part of the purpose of Rome was to find out what the Greeks wanted, to take to my coalition partners. I had difficulty explaining to my colleague, but he understood and agreed to bring a “picture” to that effect the next morning. However, the next morning he apologized for not having a detailed picture because he said it was a one-sided dialogue and we—the Turks—had nothing to offer. He demanded that since the line was negotiable, the two sides of the island should have economic viability, and since there was a humanitarian aspect, the refugee problem should be solved. Of course, what he said about economic viability and appropriation of enough land to each side would have no meaning since we didn’t talk about the area.

Now I want to raise something which I don’t want to expound on in the meeting room. One thing I don’t understand is whether we are in fact partitioning the island or whether the Greeks have something in mind. We are ready to establish a federal state, with two zones, but the territory would in fact belong to the federal state. I think if I proposed now that the question of whether the line would pass in this area or that area was left to a later stage and we talked now about the powers of the federal state, I think we could progress, because the line is a secondary matter. Yes, indeed, there exists a distance between the two communities, but the problems we talk about would be no problem in two or three years time. If the military tension is lessened and the present problems overcome, there would not then even be a recognition of the line—the people wouldn’t even be aware of the line between them.

Kissinger: Are you saying you think at any stage the people would be able to move freely between the two parts of the island?

Caglayangil: Naturally. If the political tension of today is removed, of course. They for centuries lived together, and the great majority wouldn’t be drawing pistols against each other.

Kissinger: Are you suggesting that the Greeks who left could just return?

[Page 727]

Caglayangil: Now there is a point of interesting concern to them, too. The Turks are not willing to live among the Greek majority because in the past they suffered. This requisite of the majority is being kept in mind. Of course, there would be exchange of visits, trade, etc.; of course there are grave sites in the two sides. All these could be talked about, negotiated, and solutions could be found. However, the Greek party isn’t willing to talk and they want to find out where the line is.

The biggest difficulty regarding the drawing of the line is from the opposition parties. After assuming the powers of Government, I asked Mr. Ecevit what he meant by his saying “the line is negotiable.” Now that we’re in Government. He said that on the existing line there are certain extensions, and those could be rectified. I don’t think such a solution would satisfy the Greek party as a final solution. I don’t think that’s what they want.

Kissinger: Nor is it what Mr. Ecevit had in mind when he said it.

Caglayangil: Nevertheless, I had the impression the dialogue I had could lead us somewhere. For 5–6 years, I negotiated with them; I can tell when there is a possibility. My impression is they are bent on giving thought to finding a solution. I don’t think there is freedom of action on our part in light of the domestic situation and the governmental situation. We’ll meet in Brussels again [at the NATO Summit May

Kissinger: For the Prime Ministers?

Caglayangil: I don’t think the Prime Ministers would take up this situation because the situation isn’t ripe if they try to take up the method. If they met, it could be unsettled. The Prime Ministers could discuss general principles; the Foreign Ministers should deal with detailed methods.

Kissinger: The Union of Foreign Ministers should keep the heads of government out of foreign policy. [Laughter] Let me ask one concrete question. First procedurally, you had in mind that first the Prime Ministers meet and then the Foreign Ministers meet again?

Caglayangil: In Rome when I talked with Bitsios, he told me it was a very good start and we should continue the dialogue and proceed in these lines. I don’t know how they evaluate the Rome meeting in Athens. If they evaluate it as good, we should continue to meet again on the Foreign Minister level. If they evaluate it as negative, a meeting of the two Prime Ministers would be only a courtesy. No time and place have been set yet for the two Prime Ministers to meet. Either in Brussels I’ll talk to Mr. Bitsios to set the time and place, or he will take the initiative.

[Page 728]

Kissinger: If neither of you takes the initiative, should I propose it to the two of you?

Caglayangil: I asked him at Rome. He said, “Naturally our Prime Ministers should meet but I don’t want to speak for my Prime Minister.”

Hartman: Could I ask just one question? You said governmental and domestic problems. By “domestic” I assume you mean the opposition. Is that more serious than the coalition problem?

Caglayangil: Regarding the situation with the opposition as well as the coalition, that’s where the dilemma lies. We are not in a position to go to either the coalition or the opposition to ask what concession we should make to the Greeks. This is the way we can present the situation to the opposition as well as to the coalition: “We have talked to the Greeks; they are agreed to a bizonal solution; in return they want this and that. In this way we can find a solution. We as the main proponent of the coalition find this to be in the high interest of the state. Are you willing?” They might say they are ready and willing and want a little retouching here and there, and they might say no, it’s nonnegotiable.

Kissinger: One thing they won’t say is yes!

Caglayangil: It depends on the proposal!

Kissinger: For all of Cyprus, they’ll say yes.

Caglayangil: I’m not in complete agreement with Dr. Kissinger, because in private talks they say they’re prepared for a settlement but can’t do a big thing.

Kissinger: Should we now join your colleagues?

Caglayangil: All right.

Kissinger: Why should I be the only one at a disadvantage?

[At 4:04, the group moved to the Cabinet room. Caglayangil was joined by Ambassador Esenbel, Tezel, Yavuzalp and four others. More photographs were taken.]

Caglayangil: Your Excellency, I’m very happy to see you here in Turkey again. I have just summed up to you our dialogue in Rome. The general lines of the Rome talks are this: I have found out that my Greek colleague is a realist who wants to get some results. I have not learned clearly what his conditions are. “In general, the economic viability of both sides must improve; the question of the refugees must be settled. We have to find a durable solution; a modus vivendi isn’t good enough.” This is what they said. I’ve told him I can’t discuss conditions or concessions but if he has an offer that would be acceptable to Turkish public opinion, I’d consider it. They said, “You’re placing us in a position where it’s impossible for us to say.”

[Page 729]

We are meeting again in Brussels. While I was discussing this with my Greek colleague, experts on both sides were also discussing all the problems on the two sides, and they have decided they should meet again at the experts level. The question of the continental shelf, the question of the Aegean,3 Cyprus, air space over the Aegean, and minority questions were subjects of the experts meeting. Working committees were created and these will continue. The door has been opened toward a solution. If the parties can move, results can be achieved.

About the questions of continental shelf, we’ve told them this is a rather complicated issue, bearing in mind the 3,000 or so Greek isles, so we proposed a joint exploration of minerals. We will discuss with them.

A subject just as important for us is Turkish-U.S. relations. If I could hear Mr. Secretary’s comment about this, I’d be much obliged.

Kissinger: Mr. Foreign Minister, first I’d like to thank you for your courtesy, and at the risk of offending your Ambassador in Washington, I’d like to congratulate you on assuming your new responsibilities.

On the American domestic situation, and I’m sure your excellent Ambassador, whom we all admire, can give you a good account—first, on the positive side, I think the narrow vote in the Senate4 is somewhat deceptive. According to our estimate, we could have had a margin of between 10 and 15. On the other hand, the Greek community in America is so well organized and so vindictive towards those who vote against their wishes, that many Senators decided that, as long as it was going to pass anyway, why should they risk alienating the community needlessly? So we didn’t press for all of them. Just one example: Senator Kennedy voted for restoration, then switched when he saw it wasn’t necessary. He would have voted for restoration if it had been necessary.

Now, in the House, there is no question, and your Ambassador can confirm: in the House the situation is more difficult. Because the election results last November produced an almost uncontrollable group of young Congressmen. Nevertheless, we will make a major effort when the Congress reconvenes starting the 1st of June. But I have to tell you honestly, nothing would help so much as to show the negotiations were moving forward. I am not asking for unilateral Turkish concessions, but if we could make a plausible case that, based on my discussions here and the President’s conversations with DEMIREL, the negotiations were moving forward, then I believe we’d have a good chance.

[Page 730]

What the House people say is that they’re willing to do a waiver for the grant aid. I discussed it with your Ambassador. Now there is a new Foreign Minister, may I ask whether you’re interested in our exercising that authority? Then I’ll get into the substance. But first I wanted to ask about the procedural.

Caglayangil: Mr. Secretary, may I be allowed to listen to your comments about the substance before I give an answer to your question about a waiver?

But a waiver by itself isn’t sufficient.

Kissinger: While you’re thinking about it, my impression is the Greek Congressmen will insist on conditions on the waiver. They won’t just let us put a waiver unconditionally.

Caglayangil: Yes, Mr. Secretary, we are all ready to hear your comments.

Kissinger: On the substance, on the subject of your conversations with the Greeks, there are two aspects: one is procedure; one is substance. As I understand it, you feel you can’t go to your Cabinet and ask for concessions without being able to tell them what the Greeks are going to do.

Caglayangil: Yes.

Kissinger: On the other hand, from my conversation with Bitsios,5 my impression is that he has exactly the same problem. He can’t go before his Cabinet and utter the words “bizonal federation” without knowing what you will do.

Caglayangil: That’s the dilemma.

Kissinger: I have an idea on this, but let me say first on the substance. As your Ambassador knows, I have from the beginning said the solution had to be some kind of bizonal solution, and I said so publicly, and I also very early said it should be a federal solution.

Caglayangil: Yes.

Kissinger: That’s why I’m so popular in Greece today. [Laughter] My name is a household word, but not a word people can use in polite society.

I have the impression that Greece is prepared to accept a bizonal solution, and that Greece is prepared to accept a federal solution in which both zones have a considerable degree of authority, and that Greece is prepared not to let Makarios stand in the way of a solution. And it’s my impression that Greek Government finds it very difficult to make these concessions and have them rejected by Turkey. That way they would lose twice—once domestically in making the concession [Page 731] and once internationally when it’s rejected. This is the impression, based on my conversation with Bitsios and Karamanlis.

Why is Karamanlis ready to make this sort of agreement? I’m just giving my assessment, not speaking for him.

Caglayangil: I know.

Kissinger: He’s ready for this because he knows that any solution you’ll accept is much worse than the situation before July. That’s axiomatic. Therefore he’d like to get it behind him as quickly as possible. He’s afraid if negotiations get too protracted, you could see events like in Portugal: where the military, disaffected with the United States, could combine with Papandreou and the left-oriented military. And they’d have a chance of getting much more Soviet support. And that’s my worry, too.

So my view is this: If Karamanlis can get a quick agreement he’ll pay a considerable price for it, but if he can’t get a quick agreement he’s better off being a demagogue about it and acting more like Makarios. He’ll fight Makarios if he can get a quick agreement. But why have the army, Makarios and Papandreou against him if he can’t get an agreement anyway?

Therefore, I totally disagree with your opposition, who want you to let them do it, or wait a year to get something better than what you can get now. In fact, it may well be that in a year you can’t possibly get the terms you can get now.

Caglayangil: Mr. Secretary, in order to clarify the situation, when you say you disagree with the opposition, can you state it again so I can put it more clearly to them?

Kissinger: I’ll say it to Ecevit tomorrow. When I was here last time, Ecevit said there is no hurry; he could do it in a year, or after elections, or anyway you don’t need a quick settlement. My view is what you have going for you now is Karamanlis’s desire to get it behind him. Then a year from now when Karamanlis goes for another election, he’ll have other issues. Otherwise he has no reason not to take a radical position. In any case, I regard Karamanlis as a transitional figure in Greece. By age alone, he’s not of the new generation.

And I will say exactly this to Mr. Ecevit tomorrow morning, so it’s not something I’m doing behind his back.

All I’m saying is, as a friend, in my judgment this is the best time for a settlement for Turkey, and I’ll explain my views on the substance in a minute.

What are the Turkish interests as I understand them in Cyprus?

One, to get autonomy for the Turkish population.

Second, to get an amount of territory for the Turkish people to live.

[Page 732]

And third, to get a Constitution in which the central government can’t turn against the Turkish people again or get a foreign policy that could turn against Turkey.

Those are the positive goals. The negative goals should be to prevent Cyprus from being an international issue on which Turkey will be constantly embarrassed and constantly threatened, and your position will depend on military force alone. What you need is international acceptance of your legitimate position.

I believe Turkey has already practically achieved all its objectives, if it can only make them legitimate. I believe Greece is ready to accept a bizonal solution, a federal solution, and powers for the central government that will give the Turkish part adequate protection. And my instinct is they even won’t let Makarios stand in the way.

This is my instinct; I have not discussed with them.

What will Turkey have to pay for it? Some territory you’ve occupied and some return of refugees. Some refugees will go with the territory. But others can come. So I believe if you let some refugees go back into the Turkish area, just so the principle is maintained … Right now you’re in the best position.

Another element: Right now the Soviet Union is quiet. In a year, Karamanlis or whoever else will be there, will be closer to the Soviets, and the Soviets will be more active.

So if you go for a quick solution, you’ll be better off. I believe you can get it.

I really believe you can get a solution that is 95% of the Turkey position. And what you get by waiting longer is whatever you get domestically, which I can’t judge, but internationally, maybe 2–3%, which is peripheral.

Procedurally, to break this deadlock where each side waits for the other, to be able to put something before the Cabinet—and this is just an idea, and not a proposal: If you and Bitsios continue to meet and if the communal talks continue, and if you feel you’re fairly close, and if you want, we could put forward something as an American proposal, if neither side wants to put something forward as your own proposal. We don’t want to put something forward alone; it would be agreed to ahead of time. If domestically you didn’t want to put something forward without knowing what the other side would do. But the talks with Bitsios would have to go forward to narrow the gap more than it is now. We would not put forward a proposal unless we know you would accept it. We will not inject ourselves into the negotiations.

Whatever the procedural formula, my strong impression is the immediate future, leaving aside all the domestic considerations, is the best time to make a settlement.

[Page 733]

Caglayangil: I thank you, Mr. Secretary. I’ve clearly understood, and I’m much obliged for those thoughts. I’d like to give my view. The domestic political situation in the United States has become rather complicated …

Kissinger: In the United States.

Caglayangil: Yes. To what extent it’s explicable, this situation in the United States is not clear to me, but I’m sure Dr. Kissinger can analyze the situation in Turkey. Mr. Ecevit is saying, “I intervened in Cyprus; I have the upper hand in Cyprus. Why should I come with formulas? Let the Greeks do that. Instead of going after formulas, the thing to be done is to improve the economic lot of the Turkish part in Cyprus. And sooner or later the Greeks will come to us.” Inside our own government, there are those whose appetite was whetted by the

Mr. Secretary, I’ve just told you exactly what Mr. Bitsios said: “Let’s improve the territorial adjustments.” Mr. Secretary, what I’ve been told is, “Make some territorial adjustments, make some territorial concessions. You’re holding now 38% of Cyprus territory. Tell me, ‘give me UN estimate is 185,000, our estimate is 150,000. We also know the Turkish Cypriots have emigrated to the north and left their homes and their fields and their gardens. We also know that 60,000 left. So the number of displaced persons isn’t 185,000 or 200,000 but

Kissinger: No, but I understand his problem. When he gives you a figure, he’s locked in. He’s accepted a bizonal federation.

I have experienced at home a complicated domestic situation, and I have experienced that in those situations appeals to the national interest aren’t always convincing. Because there is ambition.

But I don’t think it is such a Turkish concession. First, I don’t think you intended to keep that territory. In fact, that’s what Ecevit told us when he was Prime Minister. He said you didn’t need it at all. You could keep it by force, but then you’re totally dependent on the accident of Greek domestic politics. If you get a Portugal-type government, the Soviet Union will be on your back, the non-aligned will be on your back, and for what? For more than you need.

[Page 734]

Caglayangil: You, yourself, with your experience of the Middle East, a complicated situation, know that conquering land is easier than surrendering land. [Laughter] This is the case in the Middle East where you’re trying so hard. I keep telling them, “Give me a picture I can take back to my own government.” I will never be in a position to go to the Greeks and tell them “For this we are prepared to do this and that.” I tell you frankly, I’m not the man to go there and tell them that.

Kissinger: For domestic reasons.

Caglayangil: For domestic reasons, many reasons.

Kissinger: Maybe it would be better to start with a discussion of the powers of the federal government, as I suggested.

Caglayangil: But they ask me, what are they going to give us?

Kissinger: We went through much of this—if you hadn’t mentioned the Middle East—I think Israel made the wrong choice, too. Instead of giving up 8 kilometers, they’ll be under great international pressure. I told them the exact location doesn’t make all that difference; the key is international recognition of the line.

Speaking as a professor, I think the hardest thing is to make peace when you don’t have to. The key is to be moderate before it’s under pressure.

Caglayangil: Mr. Secretary, I’d like to show you—although I know your view of this—the position of Turkey was interpreted in the United States and blamed for using American arms against Greeks. Here are photos of American arms in the hands of Greek Cypriot nationalist forces—and no embargo was imposed. [He passes to the Secretary a book of glossy photos.]

Yavuzalp: These are all Americans arms used by Greek Cypriots.

Kissinger: Of course, our Congressmen would say it’s not the same thing. They’d say the Turkish army has no right to be there, but the Greek Cypriots do have the right to be there. This is what they’d say; you know I oppose what they are trying to do.

Caglayangil: Mr. Secretary, the gist of the Congressional objection wasn’t that the Turkish army was in Cyprus, but that American arms were used—and those arms were supplied by the Greek government.

Kissinger: That’s different. But I oppose the embargo because it’s against our interest. You can’t conduct foreign policy as charity. You give us facilities. I think it’s a tragedy.

Caglayangil: Turkey intervened in Cyprus when Cyprus became a Cuba for Turkey. Mr. Secretary, is Turkey going to stand to all threats because Turkey has NATO arms? The same game is being played today on the Aegean Isles. The Islands are being armed to the teeth, Mr. Secretary, and in violation of signed treaties. Can you tolerate an island near your coastline to be an ammunition dump?

[Page 735]

Kissinger: There is no question the treaties of Lausanne and Paris prohibit arming of the islands.

Caglayangil: They say we’re violating.

I believe we have laid the foundation for the discussion Mr. Secretary will be having tomorrow with the Prime Minister.

Kissinger: All right.

When you discuss among yourselves: Many of your arguments have great merit, and the injustice of our position I totally agree with you. I’m looking for practical ways for a solution because I believe the best conditions for a solution are in the next six months, whoever is in power. I know from my experience—before it happens it’s impossible to convince people; after it happens, it’s too late.

Caglayangil: The structure of my mentality is such that you can’t find a person more situated than myself to implement such a solution.

Kissinger: I agree. That’s our problem.

Caglayangil: There is a Turkish proverb: You can’t clap with one hand only.

Kissinger: We will speak with the same energy to the Greek side.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of Henry Kissinger, 1973–1977, Entry Nodis. The meeting was held in the Foreign Minister’s office. Kissinger was in Ankara to attend a CENTO meeting.
  2. All brackets are in the original.
  3. For a DIA intelligence appraisal of the Aegean seabed dispute, see Document 34.
  4. On May 19 the Senate passed S.846, which permitted resumption of most military aid, by a 41–40 vote. (Congress and the Nation, Vol. IV, 1973–1976, p. 866)
  5. Not further identified.