246. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Secretary’s Meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Caglayangil


  • Turkey
  • Foreign Minister Caglayangil
  • Ambassador to the United States Esenbel
  • Permanent Representative Ilter Turkmen
  • Mr. Ecmel Baratcu
  • Mr. Daryal Batibay (Interpreter)
  • US
  • The Secretary
  • Under Secretary Habib
  • Assistant Secretary Hartman
  • Nelson Ledsky (Notetaker)

The Secretary greets Caglayangil and photographs are taken.

The Secretary: How are you, Mr. Minister?

Foreign Minister Caglayangil: You seem in a terribly happy mood this morning.

The Secretary: I always smile when I see my friends.

Foreign Minister Caglayangil: How are you? I know you have just completed a very difficult trip to Africa.

The Secretary: I am fine. But you have already given yourself away. You will have to admit before the press that you speak good English.

What are we going to do for the rest of the UN session now that I understand you and the Greeks are about to settle all your differences?

Foreign Minister Caglayangil: Without you, we can’t settle anything.

The Secretary: You want me to settle your problems? Why not? Everyone likes to yell at us. So why not the Greeks and Turks? Foreign Minister Caglayangil: I am glad to see you for two reasons…

The Secretary (to Habib): Don’t you think our Turkish friends deserve a cup of coffee?

[Page 844]

Habib: Yes, I think we can arrange it.

Foreign Minister Caglayangil: I wanted to thank you for your assistance in connection with the recent Security Council action on the Aegean. You also deserve to be congratulated for your impressive record in Africa. You have done much to liberate those still under colonial rule.

The Secretary: If I am not mistaken, you have liberated quite a few nations in your time yourself.

Foreign Minister Caglayangil: Since our time is short, I would like to give you a summary of where we stand on the Aegean.

The Secretary: Before you tell me what concessions you are prepared to make, let’s have some coffee. As you know, my schedule this morning is such that after you leave, I have to see a delegation from SWAPO, then I see Bitsios.2 After that, a psychiatrist will have to wheel me away. Now for your capitulation.

Esenbel: Why have you scheduled the Africans in between the Greeks and the Turks?

Foreign Minister Caglayangil: Let me recapitulate. After the Security Council resolution in late August,3 we agreed to cut back the Sismik’s sailing program. We hoped this would enable negotiations to begin immediately, and certainly before the General Assembly convened in New York. The Greeks said they could not begin discussions until the Sismik had returned to port. We had no alternative but to accept their view.

We also asked the Greeks to withdraw their request for interim measures before the International Court of Justice. They did not accept our recommendation. Now, after the initial decision of the ICJ,4 we have asked the Greeks again to withdraw or suspend their case. If you recall, you had told us in New York that it was possible to suspend a case before the ICJ. Our lawyers had informed us to the contrary. Now the Greeks agree with us, namely, that suspension is impossible.

The Secretary: You were right. I was wrong.

[Page 845]

Foreign Minister Caglayangil: Now we say the Greeks should withdraw their unilateral case before the ICJ and begin to negotiate in good faith.

The Secretary: My understanding is they simply want to delay the Court’s consideration of the matter and that this would be similar to a suspension.

Foreign Minister Caglayangil: This is not a serious Greek position.

The Secretary: The Greeks are apparently willing to take up to nine months to submit their memorandum which the Court will request. Then, if you take an additional nine months to submit your reply, there will be some eighteen months between now and the time the Court takes up the jurisdiction question.

Foreign Minister Caglayangil: Since the Greeks can make an application any time they wish—any time the negotiations falter or break down—I don’t see why they cannot withdraw their case now. The gimmick of delay is not to be taken seriously. The Greeks should not joke with Court procedures in this way.

The Secretary: I believe it is Greek domestic politics. Of course, I know this is hard for you to understand since you have no domestic political problems.

Foreign Minister Caglayangil: Every country has its domestic problems. Every state has problems with its domestic opposition.

The Secretary: Not every state has an Erbekan inside its government.

Foreign Minister Caglayangil: Other countries have problems with coalition partners.

The Secretary: I am in a different position. In our country the only support I have is outside the Government.

Foreign Minister Caglayangil: As you know, Mr. Secretary, I had a talk earlier this week with Foreign Minister Bitsios5 at his request. Our discussion concerned the Aegean. He made it clear that he could not accept our appeal that Greece withdraw its case before the ICJ. He said we could negotiate during the delay between now and the time the Court considers the case. He said we should first take up bilateral questions, the continental shelf and air space issues. If we made progress in these areas, then we could move on to other questions.

The Secretary: What questions would be left?

Foreign Minister Caglayangil: Cyprus.

[Page 846]

The Secretary: Do they want to settle Cyprus now? I didn’t think they have shown much interest in being involved recently.

Foreign Minister Caglayangil: They speak for the record, so as to make clear that Cyprus is not pushed aside. At the same time, they made clear that at this stage they do not want to take up the Cyprus issue. Bitsios then proceeded to ask me a series of questions about our sincerity and our willingness to negotiate a solution to Aegean problems.

The Secretary: What did you say?

Foreign Minister Caglayangil: I recalled to Bitsios that I had been seeing him off and on for two years. Each time we met, he always asked the same questions and set the same Greek preconditions. I suggested to him that the time had come for the two of us to talk in detail without notes or advisors for two or three days and see if we cannot come up with a set of agreements.

The Secretary: I suppose then the survivor could publish the results. Macomber were here, he would have had a heart attack by now. He claims you have no sense of humor, and that I drive you crazy with my jokes. As a matter of fact, I don’t joke with the Greeks.

Foreign Minister Caglayangil: You treat me the way you do because you know how thick my back is.

Turkmen: That is an old Turkish expression.

The Secretary: Leaving aside for the moment the question of where the negotiations are to be conducted, what can be negotiated on the Aegean?

Foreign Minister Caglayangil: This is the question I put to Bitsios. I asked him whether he expected to settle our Aegean problems through bilateral negotiations. He said no. In the view of Athens the positions of the two sides are so far apart that only the Court can decide. But the Court is not a technical agency which is capable of delimiting a continental shelf. So, in my view, we must open a debate between us as to how the Aegean should be delimited.

The Secretary: How do you think the Court would rule on the substance of the Aegean dispute? Don’t the Greeks want to go to the Court because they believe they would win the case?

Hartman: I think it is clear that the Greeks believe that the law is more on their side, but there is some understanding that there is equity in the Turkish position as well. Our guess is that the Court will cite the law and ask the two parties to negotiate the equities.

The Secretary: Well, why not let the Court come to this conclusion? What would either side have to lose?

Hartman: Of course, no one can be sure exactly what the Court would decide.

[Page 847]

Foreign Minister Caglayangil: I am ready to let the Court make its ruling. I am not afraid of the Court. Indeed, I am beginning to think that the Greeks are proposing delays because they may fear what the Court will decide. In my own view, we should move on to have joint exploration of the Aegean and then delimit after we know what is present in its waters. We could send out a joint boat to explore.

The Secretary: That will be a happy ship!

Foreign Minister Caglayangil: After the exploration, there would be a common understanding of where we are—what is important and what is unimportant.

The Secretary: The Greeks have not rejected this, have they? I had the impression from my conversation with Tzounis in Souda Bay last week6 that they might be prepared to undertake some joint exploration if one could decide in advance what the disputed area was. Isn’t that your impression, Art?

Hartman: No. I believe the Greeks want to settle the boundary question first before any kind of joint exploration is considered.

Foreign Minister Caglayangil: My position is clear. I want negotiations to get started. But the important question is what are we to negotiate and to what purpose? They only want to begin negotiations in order to have them fail, so they can cite the failure in going back to the Court. I want to settle the issues. As you know, the Aegean air space question is all but settled. One or two more meetings may be required. They do not want to meet on this question now unless there are also parallel talks on the continental shelf at the technical level. I don’t want technical level talks at all. I want the talks to begin on all subjects at the political level. This is the only way anything can be accomplished. Two days ago, I met with Bitsios. He did most of the talking and I did almost nothing but listen. I told him then that I would respond to his proposals on Friday.7 What I have just told you now, I will tell him when I meet him on Friday.

The Secretary: What should I tell him when I see him later this morning?

Foreign Minister Caglayangil: I would be happy if you could tell the Greeks to put aside their formalistic concerns, to set out with us to find a settlement. They must be told to sit down to negotiate seriously with us, to look at the security and political aspects and adopt an open mind in questions related to equity.

The Secretary: Can the two sides agree on where the disputed area is?

[Page 848]

Hartman: Yes. One of the problems, however, is that the Greeks seem to know where the resources are and the Turks do not.

Turkmen: That is not the point. What we want to do is to delimit and provide for the utilization of the entire Aegean. We are not talking here about a small area.

The Secretary: Your idea then, as I understand it, is to divide the Aegean in half down the median line and then make some special arrangements for the islands.

Turkmen: Yes, in a crude way, that is our position.

The Secretary: My understanding from my discussion with Tzounis last week was that the Greeks would accept joint exploration in the disputed zone, but it has never been clear to me where that disputed zone is.

Foreign Minister Caglayangil: In some parts of the Aegean, we favor joint exploration. In others, there ought to be separate arrangements whereby each side can exploit his own resources. In other words, our position is that either the whole Aegean should be divided in a manner satisfactory to both sides, or the whole Aegean should be jointly explored.

The Secretary: But excluding the territorial waters of the islands.

Foreign Minister Caglayangil: Yes, except for the islands.

Esenbel: The Greek position is totally different. They want the continental shelf fixed starting from the Greek islands, that is, that the islands are the base point from which the continental shelf with Turkey is calculated. That is what we cannot accept. About resources in the Aegean, I am no longer sure that the Greeks know more than we do. We both applied to the same institution in New York in the hope of obtaining maps showing resources in the Aegean, so I would say we are about even in this regard.

The Secretary: I don’t believe the Greeks will ever agree to joint exploration and exploitation of the whole Aegean. As far as I am concerned, having heard the position of the Greeks, such a notion would be out of the question. At the same time, however, I have learned in dealing with our friends in the eastern Mediterranean to let things cook a little. Several weeks ago, for example, I could have sworn we had developed a better result in New York than was eventually worked out ten days later in the Security Council. I would have thought the Greeks would have been far better off had they accepted the proposal we talked about then. But, they seem happy with the Security Council resolution, and so my judgment on these matters must somehow be faulty.

Foreign Minister Caglayangil: No, you are right. The Greeks would have been better off to have accepted the earlier compromise you discussed. Moreover, look at Cyprus. As you know, we had proposed a [Page 849] cantonal system in Geneva. They would have been feasting in Athens today if they had accepted our proposal then.

The Secretary: You are right. That is one negotiation I permitted to get away from me. I never did understand completely what occurred. One thing is clear—we underestimated British incompetence. Of course, you, too, would have had a heart attack if the Greeks had accepted your proposal. You made your offer knowing the Greeks could not accept, since they would then have voluntarily given up the northern third of the island.

Esenbel: We had indicated a five-cantonal arrangement.

Foreign Minister Caglayangil: This is all beside the point now. Perhaps I could ask a few questions. You will recall that last time we discussed the American elections, I told you I thought Ford had a greater chance of winning than most Americans thought.

The Secretary: I told you then I agreed.

Foreign Minister Caglayangil: I still believe he will win the election.

The Secretary: That is my conclusion also. We have polls which have not yet been published which show Ford ahead by one or two percentage points in the country as a whole. If one figures in the fact that Carter is some 10 percent ahead in the South, the President is clearly ahead everywhere else in the country. I personally now think Ford is going to win. I perceive no big event coming along that could possibly help Carter. Once you begin sliding, unless there is some big event to turn it around…

Foreign Minister Caglayangil: If there is a big event, I would think it would work to the detriment of Carter.

Hartman: We would not want you to produce such an event.

Foreign Minister Caglayangil: Another question. In his speech yesterday before the General Assembly, Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko spoke of the situation concerning arms build-up south of the Soviet Union. What specifically was he referring to?

The Secretary: I have not read his speech. Did he talk about demilitarizing and disarming the areas in the southern Mediterranean?

Turkmen: He didn’t go quite that far.

The Secretary: Can someone get me that portion of the Gromyko speech?

Foreign Minister Caglayangil: My problem was that I didn’t quite understand what Gromyko said. His speech was in English, but it was so poorly translated that I am not completely sure what he was talking about. My impression is, however, that it contained a threat and a warning to the Soviet Union’s southern neighbors.

[Page 850]

The Secretary: I will just have to read it before commenting.

Foreign Minister Caglayangil: Another point. Is a Turkish-US Defense Cooperation Agreement stalled? At one point this month, I thought there was some movement, but it is now your view that we can obtain nothing until after the elections.

The Secretary: Yes, that is correct.

Foreign Minister Caglayangil: How soon after the elections?

The Secretary: Immediately after Congress returns we will put great pressure on the legislature to get the agreement through. It is now my turn. I have one question for you. Early in our conversation, you said that without our assistance there could be no settlement. What did you have in mind?

Foreign Minister Caglayangil: What I have said many times before, that Greece will not be flexible on the open issues between us until Congress acts to approve the US-Turkish Defense Cooperation Agreement.

The Secretary: Well, I am sorry to say this will not be possible until Congress returns.

Esenbel: Couldn’t the President call back the Congress before January

The Secretary: He could, but I think that would be most unlikely.

Esenbel: Then not until after January 7.

The Secretary: I would have to say so.

Foreign Minister Caglayangil: There was one further small issue. It is saddening to me how the recent discussions in the General Committee of the United Nations turned out on the issue of the Cyprus agenda item. All we wanted was to enable the Turkish Cypriots to have an equal voice with the Greek Cypriots in the debate. Unfortunately, you decided to be silent in this matter and in the end abstained on the final vote. Right after the vote, the issue of South Africa and apartheid came up, and your delegate urged that the matter be referred to the Special Political Committee so that all the parties to the dispute could be heard. This is exactly the position we wanted for the Turkish Cypriots. So we do not understand why you take one position on an African matter and another on Cyprus.

The Secretary: I didn’t know we were taking this position with respect to apartheid. It was probably the missionary band in the State Department—the retired clergy in the African Bureau. On substance, we agreed with your position, but could find no one else to vote with us. I issued instructions that if the Western Europeans would join us, we would vote with you. Unfortunately, I was told that they all dropped out.

Turkmen: The Germans and the Japanese would have voted with us if you had.

[Page 851]

The Secretary: My perception is that we were the last one to give in—that all others gave in before we did.

Hartman: That is correct. The EC–9 decided to vote together and abstain. Once that decision was taken, there was no hope. Germany gave up, as far as we knew, before the UK, who were the last to wither.

Turkmen: The problem was you waited too long. If you had decided two days previously to vote no, we could have gotten eight or nine votes with you. But that is water over the dam now.

Foreign Minister Caglayangil: What should we say to the press when we leave this morning?

The Secretary: We cannot announce a settlement until after I have seen Bitsios. I suppose that we should say that we discussed the Aegean, Cyprus, and bilateral questions, that we had a friendly and useful exchange, that the United States is prepared to do what it can to assist the parties in making progress on their open issues.

Foreign Minister Caglayangil: That is fine with me.

The Secretary: Let me walk you to the elevator.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 277, Memoranda of Conversations, Chronological File. Secret. Drafted by Ledsky and cleared in S on October 3. The meeting was held in the Secretary’s suite at the Waldorf Astoria. Kissinger was in New York to attend the UN General Assembly session.
  2. See Document 69.
  3. On August 25 UN Security Council Resolution 395 passed by consensus. It appealed to Greece and Turkey to exercise restraint, urged a reduction in tensions, called for direct negotiations, and prompted appropriate judicial means, particularly the ICJ.
  4. On August 10 Greece filed an application in the ICJ against Turkey requesting, among other things, that specified Greek islands be entitled to the part of the continental shelf appertained to them. On September 11 the Court, voting 12–1, did not find the breach of Greece’s rights such to cause irreparable prejudice to the rights at issue. Therefore, interim measures by the Court to protect Greece’s right were not required. (Yearbook of the United Nations, 1976, pp. 813–814)
  5. Bitsios summarized this meeting during his later conversation with Kissinger; see Document 69.
  6. See footnote 5, Document 69.
  7. October 1.