227. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Turkey:
  • Prime Minister DEMIREL
  • Foreign Minister Caglayangil
  • Ambassador Esenbel
  • Ambassador Yavuzalp
  • U.S.:
  • The President
  • Secretary Kissinger
  • Lieutenant General Scowcroft
  • Assistant Secretary Hartman

President: We certainly have beautiful weather here.

DEMIREL: Yes, we have had a lovely spring in Turkey too, fortunately with lots of rain.

[Page 740]

Secretary: I have the impression that the climate in Turkey is betters since your reforestation program.

DEMIREL: Yes and, of course, we already had a lot of forests. I know your country fairly well in particularly Colorado.

President: Yes, I know Colorado too. You seem to speak English very well.

Secretary: Yes, I am getting a little disturbed when I find that foreign statesmen have less of an accent than the Secretary of State.

President: It is a great pleasure for me to meet you personally. The Secretary has had many good things to say about his conversations in Turkey. I know that you are dedicated to NATO and to the West. What I will be saying this afternoon is that the United States has complete dedication to the Alliance. We have had difficulties, particularly in the attitude of Congress, and we have had a difficult time in Vietnam but we are determined to strengthen NATO and solve the problems like the one that I know concerns you. I would be very grateful for your observations and particularly any thoughts you have on how we can be helpful in solving the Cyprus problem. I want to stress, however, how unwise I consider the action of our Congress in cutting off aid to Turkey. We totally opposed this action and, as you can see, we got the Senate to change its vote by working with a group of bipartisan leaders. The vote was disappointing to us but there were only 81 votes cast. If all the Senators had been there, we might have had a margin of 7 or

DEMIREL: Thank you very much for your words of welcome. I too have been very pleased to see you and to have this opportunity for a frank talk. I have discussed these problems with the Secretary of State. But I would like to add a couple of things talking as friend to friend. As far as Turkey is concerned we appreciate your efforts. We have been a friend of the United States for thirty years and we believe that this mutual friendship is based on great understanding and on the basis that there are mutual benefits in our relations. Turkey has chosen the democratic way in the Free World. Turkey is also trying to show that development is possible in a democracy. There are two systems struggling in this world—the Free Democracies against Communism. Communism has made lots of progress over the years and we feel we are in the front line in opposing Communism. We are a loyal friend of the United States. Many of our people died for freedom in Korea.

[Page 741]

Secretary: Yes, Turkey sent a Brigade to Korea and their prisoners never broke under the strains of captivity—just like their negotiators never break.

DEMIREL: We believe in defending freedom. In the meantime we have a direct neighbor to the north—the Soviet Union. We cut our relations with them by taking certain actions which made us the target for the Soviets. We have never hesitated in this policy. I was six years as Prime Minister and I always defended the value of the U.S.-Turkish relationship. If there were a conflict between Turkey and the United States I would be better able to explain to my people what the problem is but we have no conflict. Cyprus is not our conflict. U.S.-Turkish relations would be easier to handle if we could talk about a specific problem between us.

Secretary: We have been impressed by your understanding. You know, Mr. President, that the Prime Minister has come under violent attack for being pro-American.

DEMIREL: I also have strongly opposed Communism. What I am trying to say is that Turkish-American relations are in a fix. Is it fair? We appreciate what the Administration has done. But the arms embargo puts us in a difficult position. It puts U.S.-Turkish relations in a difficult position. What harm have we done to the United States? My countrymen will ask this question. Did we violate some understanding or commitment? No. I can’t complain about the United States Congress because that is not a body of my government. The United States sells arms to 90 countries but not to Turkey—loyal friend. We took risks. We became a prime target of Soviet arms because we made available missile bases for your Atlas missile. We also allowed intelligence facilities and thus continue to be a prime target. How can I explain to my people what harm we have done to the United States? Even Yugoslavia receives arms from the United States but not Turkey. We are anti-Communist, we believe in NATO and we are a democracy. How can we be treated this way?

I know how you feel. I am just pointing out the difficulties we are in. I wish we had a conflict because then we could find a solution but we don’t have a conflict. We bought 40 F–4’s. Sixteen have been delivered and the rest were due to be delivered by August 1975 but they have not been. We are paying installments, we are paying interest and we are asked to pay storage fees. But these have not been delivered. We have

President: I agree with you about the harmful results for both of our countries. There is absolutely no excuse for this action taken by [Page 742] our Congress. It is counterproductive. There are some in Congress who forget which Party was responsible for overthrowing Makarios, installing Sampson and sending military materiel into the National Guard. Many Congressional friends forget this. But I can assure you that I will use my maximum effort to eliminate this injustice. There has been some progress and we will work on the House. Should there be a change this will give discretion to the President. But I don’t want to mislead you. There are still potential problems because of the emotion of our Greeks. They have an abnormal impact. But I don’t dispute your statements.

DEMIREL: I wish you did. Then I could explain our policy. Let me add a couple of more things. We have some C–130 planes that need repair. We have a contract with Lockheed to repair these planes in the United States but if we send them there they will not send them back because of the embargo. If we don’t send them we have to pay a penalty to Lockheed.

Secretary: That is an absurd application of the law. It is bad enough already without our lawyers making it worse. There could have been no intention on the part of Congress to confiscate material already in the hands of Turkey.

President: We will straighten this out.

DEMIREL: That is but one example of what damage is being done. If you confiscate our planes, hostility will certainly grow. Turn to Cyprus, and ask why that should be a source of trouble in the U.S.-Turkish relationship. The United States was not party to the agreements that established Cyprus. Therefore, why do you penalize us? We have had troubles with the Greeks for many years and these issues have a long historical background. They are complex and they cause a malaise in our relations. But why inject these complex matters into the Turkish-U.S. relationship? Already the Greek-Turkish relationship is complicated enough. Cyprus as a problem is hard, sensational, and a national issue in Turkey. We see you lined up with Greece because of the Congressional action.

Secretary: Caramanlis says we are lined up with Turkey.

DEMIREL: We have had 25 years of history with this problem. Between Makarios. If it had not been for the London and Zurich agreements he would not have become President of a Cyprus. There would not have been a Cyprus. The Turkish invasion was not a violation. We told Makarios— don’t do it. We told him constantly. But he armed his people and they killed Turkish women and children. We are a nation of 40 million just [Page 743] had been guaranteed by Turkey. And yet unarmed Turks were killed. President Inonu in 1964 and I in 1967 were faced with this problem. All of our people wanted intervention but we were patient. In 1967 the Greeks brought 15,000 men on to the island. In one village they killed and then burned the bodies of 49 people. It was inhuman. We made up our minds to intervene. But the next morning through the persuasion of our friends we got what we wanted. The Greeks sent those people out. If we do not live up to the guarantees we give in treaties, how can people take us seriously in other important matters? We got out the 15,000 and Grivas and we got out the arms they secretly had brought in. In 1974 the Greeks had an illegal National Guard of Makarios, who committed genocide. We were forced to act. We had no choice. What should we have done? The intervention was caused by Greece. Why did the Greeks put 1,000 Greek officers in charge of 20,000 men in the National Guard? Cyprus today is a consequence of all these actions—it is not a beginning. We have been pushed. Why should we be penalized?

President: I agree with much of the substance of what you say. But we need to undo the damage. This is a personal opportunity for me to hear your point of view and it will fortify me in my vigor to change our Congressional action. It is incomprehensible to me why Congress does not see this. The consequences of their action will not be to make a solution to Cyprus easier. That can only come when the aid cut-off is removed. We must re-establish good U.S.-Turk relations. Nothing will have a higher priority with me than to remove the embargo.

Secretary: May I add one thing—if you, Mr. President, succeed in lifting the embargo and then there is no progress on Cyprus (even though we shouldn’t be involved—any more than Ecevit or Erbakan should be involved), there will be severe damage to the President. This is something I can say more easily than he can. If we win this struggle with the Congress and nothing happens, they will really hate us. This is the time for real progress in the negotiations. The situation has not been internationalized by the Soviets. The Europeans are not involved. If we succeed without conditions and a stalemate develops, it will be a very difficult situation.

DEMIREL: I am trying to explain our difficulties and then state our position. Let me add a couple of more things. Our people have developed [Page 744] a great trust in the people of the United States. The embargo is shaking that trust. It is creating suspicion about the credibility of your commitment. Our arms supply is only a hundred million dollars and that is not the real question—we could pay for our own weapons. It is not a question of aid. The embargo represents hostility. You give arms to Tito but not to Turkey. You penalize loyalty. To get a change will take time. But I can tell you that pressure will not help to settle this problem. It will only lead to further difficulties. We have domestic problems among our 40 million people. I want to deal with these problems. Our population is increasing by one million a year. There are 400,000 each year looking for new jobs. I must educate 6 million kids. We have Makarios. We have problems with Greece and with Syria too. How can our friend tell us that either you settle this problem or we will not be your friend any longer? I cannot explain this to my people. Now let me add a couple of more things. We have common defense cooperation. But the embargo continues and we must take measures of our own. People ask for what do we continue defense cooperation if the United States sends us no planes, no spare parts and asks us to pay charges? Why should we cooperate in the common defense? I would like to say for my Government that we attach great importance to our common defense.

Secretary: You have certainly proved this, Mr. Prime Minister.

DEMIREL: Twenty-five years ago my party helped Turkey enter NATO in 1952. I have always defended NATO but in 1975 I am penalized. I was the first Turkish engineer to be sent to the United States by ECA. The Truman Doctrine sent me to the United States in 1949. In

President: We are most fortunate, Mr. Prime Minister, to have someone who has lived in the United States and understands our system and particularly the Constitution that gives some equality to the Branches of our Government. Too many people do not understand. Unfortunately, the system sometimes creates problems (although it gives [Page 745] us benefits as well). It is impossible to explain why this disturbed Congress impedes the Executive in the foreign policy area. Our Constitution was not intended to give this kind of power to the Congress. Congress was anxious to cooperate in the post-war period but serious doubts arose during the Vietnam war. They wanted to make themselves partners but they went beyond the Constitution. In the process they eliminated restrictions and now we must fight further encroachments. We are now living within the War Powers Act. During the Cambodian boat affair the Act called for us to consult before using the Armed Forces but we chose to interpret that Act as merely requiring notification. I voted against the Act when I was in Congress but I am an optimist and I have not lost my faith that if Congress makes a mistake in foreign policy it will not correct it. Nothing will have a higher priority than getting aid restored to Turkey but I have to be realistic. Congress has made a mistake. I am always an optimist and I believe people will see the contribution that Turkey is making. Too few remember in the Congress the contribution you made in Korea. I know what Turkey did. I remember and it fortifies my feelings. But Congress is wrong. I will do all I can to change that situation. If we are successful and it means that I have to put my personal reputation on the line, I hope that there will be movement to solve the problem. There should be no conflict between these two objectives.

Secretary: The trouble with the Turks is that they don’t know how to accept victory. The Greeks—and we now have confirmation of this from Caramanlis—are prepared to accept a bizonal federal system. I told the British to tell the Greeks to put forward the idea of alternating the Presidency between the two communities. With this the Turks will have achieved substantially all your objectives and all you have to do in return is to give up some territory—how much we do not know. We know the difficulty you have. You do not have an absolute majority. If you wait a year the Greeks will become more intransigent, the Soviets will demand an international conference and you will not be able to achieve in a year what you can get today. Leave aside the question of aid, a settlement is worthwhile now. I told your Minister some time ago that I thought a bizonal federal system was the correct solution. From a strictly technical negotiating view, now is the time to settle. If nothing happens now our problems will become impossible. Caramanlis will not be able to accept what he can today one year from now. The Soviets will be doing all kinds of things after the CSCE is finished. They will re-enter the situation. You should seek a solution now. If I can help with Ecevit, you should tell us. We could put him in a difficult position if he changes his position. We have in writing what he told us. We want to help. This is a serious problem. Every time I see Gromyko he says that the United States and the Soviet Union should jointly settle this problem but I stop him and in the pre-CSCE atmosphere this is easy to do [Page 746] but after the conference is over I am not so sure. I know Ecevit’s game. He wants to break up your coalition. But this is an extremely dangerous game. A year from now what more will you have achieved for a few percentage points more of territory? You have 40 percent now. We are talking only about territory—the refugees can return there. The alternating Presidency should also help and we have asked the British to put it forward. If territory is the only question left, it must be solvable.

DEMIREL: The case is very complicated. The complexity comes from history.

Secretary: Greeks and Turks have great difficulty with their history.

DEMIREL: We are not willing to have the aid suspended indefinitely. If it is restored we will do our utmost and in good will to get a settlement but there can be no pre-conditions. There must be a negotiation. All I can say is that we are willing to do our utmost to find a solution.

Secretary: The Turks are very negative. I don’t get the impression that there is danger of the Turks being too flexible—least I will not go sleepless for that flexibility.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of Henry Kissinger, 1973–1977, Entry Nodis. The meeting was held at Ambassador Firestone’s residence. Kissinger and Ford were in Brussels for a North Atlantic Council meeting. They had met with Caramanlis and Bitsios earlier; see Document 50.