244. Memorandum of Conversation1

SUBJECT

  • Meeting with Former Prime Minister of Turkey, Bulent Ecevit

PARTICIPANTS

  • US
  • The Secretary
  • Mr. Hartman
  • William L. Eagleton, EUR/SE (notetaker)
  • Turkish
  • Bulent Ecevit
  • Ambassador Esenbel, Turkish Ambassador to the US
  • Hasan Isik, Republican People’s Party Advisor (RPP)
  • Alev Coskun, RPP Advisor
  • Orhan Kologlu, RPP Advisor

Secretary: Hartman told me about his conversation with you yesterday when you thought we had given Greece a guarantee on the Aegean. This is not our understanding. We are opposed to provocation from either side. We told the Greeks this is not a guarantee.

[Page 824]

Ecevit: The statement seems to have created an impact on Greece. The United States wants Turkey to make conciliatory moves. Turkey wants to do research on the Aegean seabed and they hope to find something there. Greece considers this provocative.

Secretary: We would have to take a decision whether or not this is a provocation.

Ecevit: Yes, but the Greeks will interpret it as such.

Secretary: We told the Greeks that the proclamation of a twelve- mile limit would be provocative. I would not want this to be known in public.

Isik: We were puzzled by the exchange of letters with Bitsios.2

Secretary: But we would be prepared to exchange letters with Turkey. Right, Art?

Hartman: Yes, but the law is unclear.

Esenbel: When Caglayangil was here, we did not talk about the Aegean.3

Ecevit: Would it not be useful if the United States stated that a solution can only be reached through negotiation?

Hartman: There remains the problem of the Court.

Ecevit: The mention of the Court indicates the futility of negotiation.

Secretary: It is natural for your two countries, if negotiations fail, to go to war. I have been reading a book about the Greek struggle for independence.

Ecevit: If we could convince Greece to negotiate, we could get somewhere, but if the Greeks think they have the backing of the West, there will be problems. The two states should come together at a higher political level and then experts could work out details. The first thing is to accept the principle of negotiation. If you could make such a remark…

Secretary: I think I could do it, but not say only negotiations.

Esenbel: You should not refer to the Court. You can say it should be solved between the two sides but that negotiation does not preclude going to the Court if they fail.

Ecevit: There is a question of timing. The small Turkish ship is about to go out. If in the next few days you could make such a statement, it would help.

Esenbel: When I was in office, the Greek Ambassador said there was nothing to negotiate about because they had all the islands.

[Page 825]

Hartman: The Court could be a cover for beginning of negotiations.

Ecevit: No, it would indicate no interest in negotiations.

Isik: If after taking the islands Greece demands the seabeds, it is too much.

Ecevit: After the war Turkey made no claim on the former Italian islands. Now the Greeks are using the islands to demand the whole airspace and seabed.

Secretary: Are they willing to put the airspace to the Court?

Hartman: They are settling that through other channels.

Isik: The twelve islands belonged to us. Now they belong to them. When the Soviets acted in Cuba, you reacted to it. We are in the same position.

Hartman: The Greeks realize there must be some kind of negotiations.

Ecevit: But they accept negotiations only to prepare for the Court.

Hartman: They could use that to cover negotiations, to seek a solution.

Esenbel: I got the Greek commitment to talk about it, but Caglayangil saw them and got nowhere.

Ecevit: I don’t think you have to mention the Court. Negotiations are going on all over the world to settle disputes.

Secretary: But there are not so many islands there. It is different when it has to do with the seabed.

Isik: I was impressed by what President Ford said about keeping good relations with all countries. During World War I we tried to find good relations, but the Greeks felt they had the support of the West and that Turkey should be Greek. We don’t mind losing the twelve islands because there was no conflict between us. It is now a political question not a legal one. If we can settle the Aegean questions, relations between Greece and Turkey will be clarified.

Ecevit: Geological and economic zone principles would support our claim.

Secretary: Are the Greeks not interested in negotiations on Cyprus now?

Ecevit: They could be forced to negotiate if they had the right atmosphere. If negotiations on Cyprus and the Aegean were simultaneous, one move would bring another.

Secretary: Never have I seen so many negotiations begun with talk about the right atmosphere and then fail.

Ecevit: You cannot expect much with Makarios back and Clerides out. You cannot expect much between the two communities, but if the two mainland states negotiate, it would lead to a settlement.

[Page 826]

Secretary: It is not going to be simple.

Ecevit: Not with the present Government in Turkey. The central thing is to begin a dialogue.

Secretary: If the Turkish elections came now, who would win?

Ecevit: Probably we would. At least we would be the strongest party.

Secretary: Do you think this can be maintained until October?

Ecevit: The present Government has subjected us to provocations from the extreme right. The economy is going bankrupt. Inflation is in two digits. We will certainly have a great change in the future.

Secretary: I am sorry, I must go to the White House and talk to the Republican ladies.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 276, Memoranda of Conversations, Chronological File. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Eagleton and cleared in S on August 27. The meeting was held in the Secretary’s office. This meeting followed a luncheon that took place in the Secretary’s dining room at 1 p.m. (Memorandum of conversation; ibid.)
  2. See footnote 2, Document 64.
  3. See Documents 240242.