228. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • President Ford
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State and Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Congressman Benjamin S. Rosenthal (D–N.Y.)
  • Congressman Lee H. Hamilton (R–Indiana)
  • Congressman Charles W. Whalen, Jr. (R–Ohio)
  • Congressman Dante B. Fascell (D–Florida)
  • Congressman John Brademas (D–Indiana)
  • Congressman Paul S. Sarbanes (D–Maryland)
  • Lt. General Brent Scowcroft, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
[Page 747]

President: This meeting is even more appropriate than when we spoke last week, Ben.2 There have been some developments since then. There is a glimmer of hope—the Clerides/Denktash talks have gone on, even though there has been no progress yet.

I met with Karamanlis and DEMIREL at Brussels.3 Both of them talked tough and they both realize something needs to be done. They had a good meeting together.

The Senate vote was close but it was good.4 Something needs to be done. But before we get into a discussion, I would like Secretary Kissinger to bring you up to date on the discussions and on the internal situation in Turkey.

I see Karamanlis nominated Zatsos as President.

Kissinger: Let me explain where the situation is and what the Turkish domestic situation is. Let me start in February, whatever our views about what happened before.

I met Bitsios in February.5 He said he would accept a bizonal solution if we could work out the territorial arrangements. Karamanlis wanted a quick solution, to minimize the impact on the Greek domestic situation. I then went on to Turkey, which had a caretaker government. They said they had no power to do anything. But I met with every Turkish leader,6 urging them to put forth specific proposals to resolve the situation and prevent the development of complex international situation making it more difficult to resolve. They all agreed that they wouldn’t discuss it while the embargo was on. They didn’t promise to move afterwards, but they certainly would not move before; it would look like they were yielding to pressure. The Greek side has been very conciliatory—we couldn’t ask for a better position than they are now willing to take.

DEMIREL than came in, which complicated the situation. DEMIREL couldn’t accept the deal we had been working on, for domestic reasons. If Ecevit were in office, I am convinced we would now have a solution. I went to the CENTO meeting in May—not for CENTO but to talk to the Turkish leaders.7 Ecevit won’t take a position until the coalition does. He basically wants new elections which he feels certain—as do most of the Parliament—that he would win. He took Cyprus and [Page 748] he can blame the coalition for giving it away. DEMIREL was Prime Minister when Turkey didn’t move in ‘67.

The President had good talks with DEMIREL. But DEMIREL is looking for some way to manage it so he doesn’t get beaten to death domestically.

[He read from the message from DEMIREL of June 9, at Tab A]8

This was followed by an intelligence report we received that our NATO bases would be closed Monday. It is the non-NATO ones that we are most concerned about. They are of major importance to us. We called in the Ambassador and we got a 30-day extension.

DEMIREL wants to be able to show he stood up to the U.S., or to get the embargo lifted so he can show he got something back Ecevit had lost.

We expect Turkey to make progress in the Cyprus negotiation regardless of the embargo. I think the negotiation is now mostly a matter of Greek and Turkish domestic politics. The range of the issues is reasonably clear. It is not clear whether either side can make the required movement.

The Turks spent the first 20 minutes with the President talking about the arms embargo.9 I know there is a difference of opinion about our strategy. But I assure you we had no other motive than to bring Turkish concessions. Even if the embargo is lifted, progress on Cyprus would be tough. But if the embargo is lifted, they would know the President’s prestige is involved and they couldn’t sit. There is still a gap, but it is not unbridgeable. There are only two issues: the nature of the central government and the territorial division. There is also the issue of refugees. [He describes refugee issues.] If they can break the logjam, the issues aren’t too difficult. But getting started is the problem. If Greece made a move and it was turned down by Turkey, it would be disastrous for them. If DEMIREL moves in a way which looks weak, the coalition will break up.

Brent, will you discuss our installations.

General Scowcroft: [Described the bilateral installations.]

Fascell: If we move, won’t we have Greek riots, etc.?

Kissinger: The Greeks asked the President in Brussels to warn against military action, especially in connection with the Aegean. We did so. We are preparing military assistance to Greece but we shouldn’t link them.

[Page 749]

Fascell: But you think there would be no eruption?

Kissinger: Papandreou and Mavros would complain bitterly. But we are convinced Karamanlis wants to get this behind him. If the embargo was lifted and there was no progress, there would be trouble.

Whalen: Let’s get right down to cases. We are concerned and want to do something. Our way is the Hamilton Amendment which passed the Senate 41–40. Let’s face it. You have won some victories which have made the freshmen bitter. We need to resolve it in a way to try to avoid a bitter confrontation. Maybe you have some ideas.

The President: What do you all think?

Brademas: I want to thank you for inviting us, Mr. President. One idea I would like to put forth—we have mentioned it earlier, but maybe we could modify it some. This idea is to employ the waiver authority. We have checked the legality with the GAO. We would want some private assurance that some action was forthcoming acceptable to both sides; then the President could waive the $50 million without Turkey publicly having to say anything. To be sure that there is no reneging on the agreement, you could assure them there would be another $50 million coming—using both FY 75 and 76—that is more than the grant we are now giving.

If you announced a reassessment of US-Turkish relations at the same time, it would be a gentle reminder that we don’t like ultimatums thrown at us. Another idea is to get NATO more involved to soften the US-Turkish aspects of it. As you know, we here are NATO supporters. We voted against NATO cuts. And I tell the Turks I want aid to Turkey. I have 450 voting Greeks. I don’t need it politically.

We know there will be no settlement as good as the Greeks had before the crisis.

President: We discussed the waiver policy before. The lawyers can argue whether the waiver is legal. I think the GAO argument is questionable and I as a lawyer think it is probably not right. Suppose I waive and we either don’t get a settlement or it isn’t satisfactory. Then I am out on a limb. I don’t think that is a satisfactory situation. I talked with DEMIREL for an hour. He pointed out that there are arms paid for that he can’t get shipped and is even having to pay for storage. They just don’t understand this and the waiver won’t answer it.

Brademas: We are trying to find a way out. I agree, let’s forget last August. But it is virtually impossible for Congress to turn around without something happening. We must save face and I think it is fundamentally wrong. Sure it causes you some problems. But we have the national interest to consider. I am offended by the Turkish ultimatums. I disagree with your waiver interpretation. I agree with Kissinger that the sides aren’t that far apart. If we could get them $50 million, get some movement, another $50 million, more movement and we can end [Page 750] the whole thing in 8–12 weeks. In the face of the Turkish ultimatum, even if we tried to just lift the embargo, we would be hung in effigy.

President: I have spoken with some of the leaders—Tip,10 for example. Kissinger has talked to Burton. You know the Democratic freshmen better than I. I have gotten to know some of them, including Hubbard—he seems to want to help. It might be worth a try for Kissinger and me to talk to them. I am not sure they understand the nature of the problem.

Whalen: I understand what you both are saying. I see you out on a limb where you could have a problem. What if we applauded your use of the waiver. That might help.

Sarbanes: I think a starting premise has to be an understanding of some accommodation by the Turks. If we can get that, we can orchestrate to save their face. I don’t think we can approach the problem from the view of just getting the decision changed. I think it was correct. If we just change, we would be in the position of sustaining aggression. If we know certain things will be done, there are arrangements which can be made—commercial sales, military sales, grants, etc.

President: Let me follow up on that point. There are differences in the kinds of military deliveries and they can be legally treated differently—especially when they have bought and paid for things.

Let me throw this out. Is there a possibility of exempting sales?

Sarbanes: There is a fundamental premise though, and that is movement by us without moves by them.

Kissinger: What bugs the Turks is not grant aid—that is within our sovereign rights. It is the sales, where they can’t get things they have bought. So the waiver gets at what bothers them most.

On the negotiations, there isn’t any minor movement on which we could report. It will be done all together, or not at all. If the Turks decide to move, it will be done in six weeks—but I can’t say when they will decide to move.

If Ecevit were in office, we could get a settlement quickly.

Brademas: That is not Clerides’ view. He thinks turning the arms on loses us all our leverage. He thinks that sticking fast will put such a bite on Turkish military that they will force a movement.

There is another group in the House which feels more strongly from a different view—Rangel.

Hamilton: I think there is a trend in the House that the ban should come off. Many who voted for the ban are looking for reasons to change and the trick is to come up with something to help them to change. [Page 751] Can’t we explore something other than full restoral? One quirk of the law is that cutoffs are in perpetuity. Maybe we could put on a time limit. Maybe we could permit enough aid to let Turkey fulfill its NATO commitment. I don’t think right now you would get the votes to left the ban.

President: Have you got some language?

Hamilton: We have been working on some ideas.

President: Why don’t we have our people work with you. I can see the need for a parliamentary maneuver to avoid a head-on collision. The situation is bound to deteriorate otherwise—and it is not only Cyprus. DEMIREL did mention the Aegean and the Greek buildup on the islands. They are just off the Turkish coast. He didn’t threaten, but it obviously is a concern. If this continues to unravel, with the Middle East situation nearby, we could have a holocaust. I can’t sit here and do nothing.

Brademas: But we can’t just turn the arms back on without some actions by the Turks. That leaves us in an indefensible legal and moral situation. That would put the aid bill in jeopardy if we turned any part of it on without any progress from Turkey. We would in that case have to modify our position on the aid bill.

President: We have to be realistic about the situation in Greece and Turkey. For either to take a public position would create an impossible situation.

Brademas: We agree. That is why we want to do it privately—to let them save face.

Sarbanes: I would like to broaden the discussion to the nature of U.S. foreign policy and providing arms and for what purpose. Aggression has been committed and we can’t back off that principle. People may differ on that principle, and the Secretary and I part company on it. But just as we can divide categories of aid, we can divide categories of Turkish response. The other concern is Greece. Kissinger seems to assume Greece will always be there.

Kissinger: No.

Sarbanes: I don’t think so and if we move without any justification, I think there would be an explosion. I know it could even be involved with Yugoslavia, with Tito’s departure and a possible crisis involving Greece. So I think we must move in a way which does not antagonize Greece.

President: Can you differentiate between sales and grants?

Sarbanes: Yes, but I can’t turn around on any part of it without anything on which to rest it. Because of the critical nature of our relationship to Greece. We want to restore relations with both Greece and [Page 752] Turkey. I think Turkey has more than it needs. I think it is in Turkey’s interests to resolve this.

Kissinger: I think most of them want a resolution—maybe even Makarios. We can’t get Turkish progress by 15 July. We also can’t get it if there is a linkage with aid. But the President told DEMIREL that if the President sticks his neck out and they don’t act, they are then up against the President also.

Brademas: Then what?

Hamilton: There is another aid bill.

Brademas: We have kept quiet. But it hasn’t helped getting Turkish movement when the Executive keeps making statements trying to get Congress to turn around.

Whalen: The language is “substantial progress.” I think there has been some.

Kissinger: We can’t in good conscience say there has been.

Whalen: Would you rule out John’s suggestion on the waiver?

President: It is such a marginal question legally. It puts me out on a limb. I am not saying you would cut if off, but let’s be realistic. Statements by you on the floor would be helpful.

Taking Lee’s idea of making it affirmative action in support of NATO and sales versus grants, let’s see what we can do.

Rosenthal: Findley has a proposal to give NATO $100 million and let them do it. But the bases problems aren’t NATO, but a bilateral problem.

Brademas: Would this proposal … you are discussing be something different from a waiver?

President: Right.

Brademas: But the key part of a waiver was a private assurance from Turkey. If that would be included, I would look at it with an open mind.

President: I haven’t explored this with Caramanlis and Demirel.

Brademas: I think that would be crucial.

Sarbanes: Could we keep a couple of tracks open—the waiver for example? We could also phase down what progress there is in line with what kinds of arms are released. We have intended to look at all this in total packages. Maybe we need to separate things out.

Whalen: I have concerns of time. It will take time. Second, what would we do about private assurances? If we start to debate on the floor …

Sarbanes: There have been peripheral ones—to Waldheim—for example. Straightening out some lines, maybe. Can we put together enough peripheral items to justify sales? Maybe. If we can work together [Page 753] …Congress is helping Greece as against the Turks and the Executive is helping Turkey as against Greece.

President: I will reexamine the waiver, although I have grave reservations. If you could look at Lee’s ideas …

Kissinger: I don’t exclude that we could put something together like Paul says. The best place to do it is at the Greek-Turkish talks at the end of July.

Rosenthal: We also can’t appear to give in to Turkish threats. That would be a sign to others like Portugal.

Sarbanes: Rather than crumble, maybe we should say we should reevaluate our policy.

President: But if I use a waiver, doesn’t that look like buckling?

Whalen: That is right. We would have to help the President.

Rosenthal: We are all in this together. Let’s explore it again.

Sarbanes: The other should be looked at, too. That puts us in the same boat.

President: We have not only the deadline of the KaramanlisDEMIREL talks. There is also the August recess, the end of the fiscal year, etc. There are lots of deadlines.

Brademas: If we would put this together I can’t think of anything better for the country right now.

Fascell: I want to table something here about delivering the material already paid for. There is nothing more basic than the sanctity of a contract. We have got to consider resolving that.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 282, Memoranda of Conversations, Presidential File, June 1975. Confidential. The meeting was held in the Oval Office.
  2. Possibly a reference to their March 21 meeting; see Document 221.
  3. For records of the meetings with Karamanlis and DEMIREL, see Documents 50 and 227, respectively.
  4. See footnote 4, Document 224.
  5. Kissinger met with Bitsios on March 9; see Document 179.
  6. See Documents 218220.
  7. See Documents 224226.
  8. At Tab A, attached but not printed, is telegram 4487 from Ankara, June 9, which reported DEMIREL’s view that the domestic reaction to the arms embargo limited his ability to not only make progress on the Cyprus territorial issue but also prevent counteraction that might hurt U.S.-Turkish relations. All brackets are in the original.
  9. See Document 227.
  10. Representative Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill (D–Massachusetts).