243. Memorandum of Conversation1

PARTICIPANTS

  • President Ford
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State
  • Brent Scowcroft, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Bulent Ecevit, Former Turkish Prime Minister, Leader of Republican People’s Party
  • Amb. Melih Esenbel, Turkish Ambassador to the United States
  • Amb. Hasan Esat Isik, Republican People’s Party Foreign Affairs Advisor

[The press came in for photos. There was small talk about Ecevit’s being Secretary Kissinger’s student, and the fact that the President had spoken before the Kissinger seminar, too. The press then left].2

[Page 820]

The President: When did you enter parliament?

Ecevit: 1957. I had to leave here to campaign.

The President: First let me apologize for the incident in New York

Ecevit: Thank you, Mr. President. These things can happen anywhere. The security has been fine and they risked their lives for me— otherwise I might have been killed.

The President: We are delighted to have you here. I would be interested in your comments on our mutual interests, and I’d like to hear your suggestions for how we can improve things.

Ecevit: I would like to thank you for receiving me and for what you and Dr. Kissinger have done to maintain the ties with Turkey against domestic pressure. That has been the major influence in calming the Turkish people over the situation. The Republican People’s Party is doing its best not to inflame the situation.

My general observation is that the Turkish people have always been independent, so they are very proud, and any government which appears too pliant is opposed.

For that reason, when I was in power in 1974, I am sure Dr. Kissinger would tell you we were not an easy ally. But in 1974, the Turkish people developed friendly attitudes toward the United States and NATO. There were no slogans and no anti-American demonstrations.

Kissinger: That is why the tragedy is that we couldn’t move decisively in 1974 soon after the Cyprus crisis.

Ecevit: We had problems which developed within my coalition and I had to leave office in November and cancel Dr. Kissinger’s trip because I couldn’t deliver on my promise.

The President: Tragically, it has been more than two years now. We have irrational elements in this country on Cyprus. But I have done my best to maintain friendly relations without regard to domestic concerns. I just hope we can find a way out.

Ecevit: Yes. I asked to form a minority government because I thought if the problem wasn’t solved right away it would be more difficult. The new Government inherited my coalition so they weren’t able to make many moves. I had been critical of the Government and urged them to make some conciliatory moves. Then, of course, Makarios returned to Cyprus. I have the feeling the Greek Government is losing its interest in a solution to Cyprus, and they can’t influence Makarios. So all of these things conspire to make movement difficult, and the longer it goes the more difficult it becomes. I had a plan in 1974, but it no longer applies. If we win in 1977, we will put forth a plan. Of course, the Greeks are intransigent because they think they can get American and Western support.

[Page 821]

The West appears to be aware of only the Cyprus problem between Greece and Turkey, whereas the major problem is the Aegean. Greece is laying claim to the whole of the Aegean—she has used NATO missions to reinforce that claim. They have been making seismic exploration in the Aegean without opposition. When I came in, we asked for discussions to solve the problem. The junta said there were no problems because the Aegean is theirs. So we sent a seismic ship out. Greece objected and we said, “So, let’s talk.” They refused. The Greeks have used their public relations skills on the issue to make it appear one- sided in favor of Greece.

The President: Haven’t both sides agreed to submit it to the ICJ?

Ecevit: The Greeks proposed it. My Government thinks it is important to have talks first.

This is a big issue between us. What the West should do is to induce Greece and Turkey to negotiate all our problems simultaneously, but separately. In that way, things could get going. I mentioned it to Waldheim who thought it had merit.

The President: Under the UN, or bilaterally?

Ecevit: Bilaterally. The UN has no role now in the Aegean except to give friendly support for talks. The other point is the West shouldn’t appear as if they support the Greeks against Turkey. Particularly the U.S. should keep equidistant between Greece and Turkey.

If I could, I would like to mention our difficult problems. I spoke yesterday with Congressional Armed Services Committees.

The President: How did it go?

Ecevit: I am not filled with optimism. I didn’t have the impression they were sure the treaty would pass.

The President: We are forthrightly in favor of it.

Kissinger: Did you tell them what the consequences would be?

Ecevit: Yes. But we must be careful. We aren’t volatile like the Greeks, but when we act responsibly we don’t get the publicity.

DEMIREL makes sour statements which may sound a little dangerous—like leaving NATO or warning of the consequences. I never say anything like that. I say that whatever happens, that is no reason to leave NATO because it is important for many reasons. I have kept my party in line on this issue. I don’t think the Eastern Europeans would be happy if we left NATO. They can’t say it, but we feel it.

The President: Romania or Yugoslavia?

Ecevit: Yes, and even further.

But if the treaty fails we would have to develop a new NATO relationship. We couldn’t go on as in the past. Turkey would crack under it. Our defense expenditures are the highest in NATO. I have given [Page 822]this explanation to the Congress and told them they have been proven wrong on their predictions about Turkey. On the poppies, for example. The UN has investigated and said there is no opium leakage.

The President: I am dedicated to pushing the Turkish Treaty.

Kissinger: Frankly, I think the Greeks are trying to delay to prevent the Turkish Treaty from passing. I think we must separate them and push the Turkish Treaty.

The President: We will do whatever is needed.

[The Turkish press comes in for photos. Secretary Kissinger leaves. The Turkish press leaves.]

The President: Why don’t you tell me a bit about the Turkish domestic situation?

Ecevit: There is a terrorist campaign from the extreme right, which is protected by some of the Government parties. By one party directly and by the Justice Party indirectly. There is a danger of militant counteraction from the left. We are trying to calm our party, but we have no influence on the extreme left. There have been 50 or so students killed and the terrorists are protected. Now they are penetrating the labor unions. I think all of this is being done because the conservative parties in power are different than those of the West. In the West, all of them are dedicated to the rules of the game. In developing countries, the conservatives fear democracy.

Nevertheless, I am confident of the future of the democracy in Turkey. We have a good constitution, an independent judiciary, a free press, a free labor movement, and a strong opposition party. Our Army has a tradition of intervening—right or wrongly—when it sees the country in trouble, but it has never wanted to rule. Now it is, thankfully, very reluctant to intervene in any way.

May I say frankly that in Turkey, many people suspect indirect CIA involvement in covert actions in Turkey.

The President: They must be approved by me and it is not and will not be done.

Ecevit: I believe whatever you say. As you know, such operations sometimes have a life of their own. I hesitate to mention it, but I thought you should know.

The President: I am glad you mentioned it to give me a chance to go on the record. There is absolutely no truth to the stories.

May I reemphasize the importance we ascribe to good bilateral relations with NATO. This Administration will maximize its efforts to maintain good relations and to contribute to a strong NATO. We must do our share—especially with Congress, with the Treaty and to keep them from taking ill-advised action as they have done in the past. On the other hand, it is important that Turkey do its best to resolve the [Page 823]Cyprus problem. We understand Makarios’ game. Cyprus is a cancer which is harmful to this Administration or to any U.S. administration. To the degree you can help in opposition, I hope you will work for progress. October, 1977 is a long way away. I hope to win in November.

Ecevit: I hope so.

The President: I plan to, but I have reason to believe Carter might be pro-Greece.

Ecevit: I know. I have seen his statements. I wish you well this fall. We know who our friends are.

The President: Can you have elections earlier than October 1977?

Ecevit: Only by an absolute majority of the Parliament.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 283, Memoranda of Conversations, Presidential File. Secret; Nodis. The meeting was held in the Oval Office.
  2. All brackets are in the original.