64. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Secretary’s Meeting with Greek Foreign Minister Dimitri Bitsios


  • Greece
  • Foreign Minister Dimitri Bitsios
  • Ambassador John Tzounis, Director General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Ambassador Menelas Alexandrakis, Greek Ambassador to the United States
  • Anthony Nomikos, Minister, Greek Embassy
  • Loukas Tsilas, Counselor, Greek Embassy
  • Panayotis Vlassopoulos, Aide to Minister Bitsios
  • United States
  • The Secretary
  • Under Secretary Sisco
  • Monroe Leigh, Legal Adviser
  • Assistant Secretary Hartman
  • William Eagleton, EUR/SE (notetaker)

The Secretary: As I understand it, we have settled everything on the exchanges?2 Could I have your reaction?

Bitsios: I would like to have Mr. Hartman’s interpretation of your message.

The Secretary: We have changed it to “actively and unequivocally” and removed the part in the first paragraph.

Bitsios: The formula regarding your position in case we ask for credits and loans. Your position is definitely that the sums should be omitted.

The Secretary: Yes.

Bitsios: Paragraph four of the principles. How does it read?

The Secretary: “Security assistance.”

Bitsios: That is difficult for us.

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The Secretary: Why?

Bitsios: My Government needs military assistance. The price of new weapons is increasing all the time.

The Secretary: [1 line not declassified] This does not change the fact. Such aid is guaranteed under our “Security Assistance Act.”

Tzounis: Why can’t we call it military assistance?

The Secretary: [4 lines not declassified]

Bitsios: What is the problem with Turkey?

The Secretary: We have given them a rough idea of our planning, and we have had an outraged reaction from Caglayangil no less strong than yours was. They say that this might jeopardize their agreement, and they are worried that we might be exchanging letters on the Eastern Mediterranean. They would certainly react. We have not given them the exchange or the figure. They would consider about $400 million appropriate. Their argument is related to the size of population and military forces. [5 lines not declassified] This is the fact, but our advice from Ankara is that we are going to have a violent reaction even if the documents are unchanged.

Bitsios: We have all tried to be careful not to raise sensitive issues. I suppose removing part of the first sentence was related to this problem. For me it was embarrassing since it had been agreed to. But it was understandable. However, I don’t think we should go so far as to ask the Turks how to describe the $700 million.

The Secretary: We have not given them figures or formulations. Security Assistance is the name of the Act under which our military assistance is given.

Bitsios: We discussed this with the Prime Minister, and my mandate is to stand by the term military.

The Secretary: If I threw in my pants, would it work?


(To Hartman) Did we accept the word military?

Hartman: I said I would convey it to you.

Alexandrakis: You said you accepted it.

The Secretary: He said he would accept it but that the son of a bitch in charge may not go along, or something to that effect.

Hartman: Not really.

The Secretary: Let me discuss this with my colleagues. I will call you back on it this evening.

Tzounis: This is an important point for us.

The Secretary: We will call you before 7 p.m. We can still work on the text tonight.

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What are we signing?

Hartman: The document of principles. The letters will already be signed and they will be released tomorrow.3 Hamilton is releasing your exchange today.4

The Secretary: Is this on his initiative?

Hartman: Yes.

The Secretary: We will make it available in our Press Office.

Tzounis: The economic assurance is an oral one.

The Secretary: You can use it, however, and I will confirm it. We can refer to it in general terms.

(To Hartman) When is your backgrounder?

Hartman: Tomorrow afternoon.

The Secretary: The only thing remaining is that you (Hartman) should make it clear in the briefing [8 lines not declassified]. You had better explain this.

Tzounis: [less than 1 line not declassified] It will be signed at the time of the US-Greek agreement?

Hartman: Yes, but we will sign the proces verbal now (tomorrow).

The Secretary: Should we talk about Cyprus? I had thought it might be useful for an American to be engaged, since neither side seems to be able to come forward with realistic proposals. An American could explore the possibilities with both sides and perhaps introduce some ideas of his own. This might open things up. This would help avoid the debate on who puts forward the first proposals. As it is now, the Greek side will propose very little and then the Turks will come back with little. It might save some of the steps if an American put forward something to which the parties could react.

We have discussed this with the Turks, who were at first reluctant. They now agree, however, if it is done in the context of other Greek-Turkish problems. I have asked David Bruce, but he won’t do it. Perhaps Tyler or someone else.

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Bitsios: The difficulty is the linkage between Cyprus and other difficulties we have with the Turks. Have you discussed this with the Cypriots?

The Secretary: No, we have discussed this only with Caglayangil.

Bitsios: The position of the Cypriots is that they refuse the direct involvement of the Greek Government in seeking terms of a solution. They do not want the Greek Government discussing terms. They want this to be done between the communities. Secondly, they are convinced that they have fulfilled their obligations by putting forward proposals suggesting a 20% basis and leaving open the door to a bizonal arrangement. In their proposal there is nothing to exclude a bizonal system, and they suggest 20% and they suggest using some maps that have already been discussed as a starting point.

The Cypriots are convinced that Denktash should now be making his own proposals. So this is what is in the minds of the Cypriots.

It will be a political impossibility for the Government of Greece to discuss behind the backs of the Cypriots any concrete suggestions. In Brussels we discussed procedural questions. I don’t think they will accept that we discuss solutions.

The Secretary: I don’t exclude that—it does not need to be exclusively with your government. We could say we were concerned with Greece and Turkish questions, including Cyprus.

Bitsios: If he could go to Cyprus and put his suggestions to the two sides, it would be different.

Hartman: The trouble is there will be two proposals, and both will be bad. There is even a question whether the two sides will meet. The first thing is to get them back to meeting.

Bitsios: I hope that if Denktash puts forward proposals, we will be back in business. I did not expect Denktash to like the Cyprus proposals.

The Secretary: We can do our utmost to produce a Turkish counterproposal.

Bitsios: Our differences with Turkey are as follows: one, the continental shelf; two, air space. We have made some concrete proposals and had four rounds on air space. We have exhausted the subject. We said they could consider our proposals open.

On the continental shelf, we have proposed taking the matter to the International Court. They accepted this but have been reluctant to proceed. Tzounis had a meeting with them in Bern, with legal experts on both sides. Unfortunately the difference between us is so far apart that our proposal to send the question to the Court was clearly justified.

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The Secretary: You don’t see too much of a problem with our designating an American. We know the Cypriots’ first proposals are far less than what the Archbishop has told me he would be prepared to do. I am not eager to have the United States put forward proposals.

Tzounis: How do you envisage an American initiative? Would it be related to the intercommunal talks?

The Secretary: Yes. We would have to work this out with Waldheim beforehand.

Bitsios: You know Makarios’ position regarding a solution.

The Secretary: I even have the suspicion that the Archbishop might not have told me everything he is prepared to do.

Bitsios: What did he tell you?

The Secretary: He said 25%.

Bitsios: That is correct. Caramanlis came to you and said he was backing this position.

The Secretary: I have not told the Turks about it. Don’t you think if the United States put forward 25% all hell would break loose?

Bitsios: I have the impression Makarios thought you would bargain with the Turks on this basis. You do not really need the Government of Greece involved in this. You could bargain directly with the Turks.

The Secretary: First of all, I think we should try to elicit a Turkish proposal before we address the question of whether there is to be an American emissary. I would recommend that we make an urgent approach to the Turks asking them to put forward their proposals.

Tzounis: There was an understanding in Vienna that proposals would be exchanged in six weeks, then that there would be a meeting in May and if a basis were found that the subject would be referred to subcommittees.

Hartman: The resignation of Clerides has made the question of their talking more difficult.

Bitsios: I have received a report that the Turks will be appointing another man to talk with Papadopoulos. They, of course, say there will not be the same personal relationship. Apparently Clerides made a commitment in Vienna but did not inform Makarios when he got back. He went to Denktash on the 25th of March and gave him the Greek proposals. Denktash then called his Assembly and said he had the proposals. This ruined Clerides.

The Secretary: In my study of the Cypriot mentality I have some problem in understanding his not telling Makarios. He must have discussed it with the Archbishop.

Hartman: What did you agree to in Brussels?

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Bitsios: That the territorial issue was to be discussed first. Caglayangil said yes, but the Cypriot proposal must be put forward first. We agreed.

Hartman: Clerides was carrying out this agreement.

Bitsios: In Vienna he agreed on the exchange.

The Secretary: In my view Clerides is not as skillful as the Archbishop.

Bitsios: Denktash did not respect the agreement.

Tzounis: Clerides made a mistake in not informing Makarios.

The Secretary: It is almost inconceivable in Cyprus that he would make such a proposal to Denktash and not tell the Archbishop.

Alexandrakis: Clerides has this personal weakness.

The Secretary: What do you think we can do? We can encourage the Turkish proposal. It is now premature for an American to go out. If you say 20% and the Turks say 38%, then the United States cannot say 28%—the gap is too wide. You have to narrow it more.

Bitsios: They can’t say 38%, since they have that much now.

The Secretary: I would not have wanted to be a Turk and be governing in Greece during the occupation.

Bitsios: What are the prospects if you ask the Turks for their proposal?

The Secretary: Their Government is weak and is getting weaker. I have told the Turks that now is the time for them to make a deal. Caramanlis has been a real statesman. You have gone about this in a farsighted way.

I would like to have the Turks put forward some proposals no matter how bad they are, but on a continuing basis. The new agreement with them gives us some handle because of the Congressional problem. I think we can get them to put forward a proposal. I personally believe once they begin to talk about percentages they should look at specific areas and then figure out what percentage it is. Suppose you agree on 26-1/2%. How do you compose it? My advice would be—if I were a mediator in this negotiation—get both of them to put forward proposals, then forget about the proposals and talk about areas. The Germans had an idea of three zones, Greek, Turkish and Federal.

Bitsios: This wouldn’t work.

The Secretary: That was my view. I think our major effort is to elicit a Turkish proposal as a next step. Then Waldheim would have to follow up. Then we will be meeting at NATO and can discuss the next step. We are prepared to be active. An American emissary is now premature.

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Bitsios: Yes.

The Secretary: We can be helpful after proposals have been set out. There has been no disagreement between us and our allies on how to handle this.

Bitsios: Regarding the Aegean, there is a problem with the seismic ship that the Turks intend to send out. It is called The Hora. They have said that in May they will send it into unspecified areas of the Aegean. This will create great problems. Is there anything you can do?

The Secretary: I will look into it.

Bitsios: I have sent a message to Caglayangil regarding this problem and about the Turkes statement. The answer was that the Foreign Minister speaks for the Government and we should not consider Turkes. But Ecevit is prompting the Government.

Hartman: Do you understand that the ship is to take soundings?

The Secretary: Are you saying they cannot do seismic research?

Tzounis: We say they cannot on our continental shelf.

Bitsios: International law requires them to ask permission of the government and to share the information. If it is purely scientific you can do seismic research.

Tzounis: We are relying on the Continental Shelf Convention. In the first three articles it says that islands do have their own continental shelf.

Bitsios: I don’t see why they don’t want to send this matter to the International Court.

The Secretary: They perhaps think they will lose.

Leigh: No one can predict the outcome of the Court.

Bitsios: We have taken a risk in suggesting it.

Tzounis: We have said ahead of time that our position to some extent will be eroded—we will not get 100% of what we want, but politically it is easier to follow the decision of the Court.

The Secretary: We have favored going to the International Court.

Tzounis: The Turks agree in principle but won’t discuss the arrangements.

Hartman: They want to negotiate it first.

The Secretary: I had a student who was hanged in Burundi. According to the law he was allowed to have a Belgian lawyer, but not an interpreter, so he could not communicate with the Court.

We will have to take this up with the Turks. We are eager to have an easing of the situation. It is not tolerable to have two of our close allies in an attitude of hostility toward each other.

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We will make a significant effort to bring about progress on Cyprus, and we will make an effort to get the Aegean problem to the International Court.

I have to meet now with the Black Caucus. I suggest we meet tomorrow at 11:30.5

Bitsios: What about the military matters we raised.

The Secretary: We will discuss that tomorrow. I believe we will be able to make some progress on some of it.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 275, Memoranda of Conversations, Chronological File. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Eagleton on April 16 and approved in S on July 7. The meeting was held in the Secretary’s office. Several meetings took place in preparation for this 4 p.m. meeting. Kissinger, Sisco, and Hartman met with Alexandrakis on April 1. (Memorandum of conversation; ibid.) Internal State meetings were held on April 2, 5, and 14 (9:45 a.m. and 1:15 p.m.). (Memoranda of conversations; ibid.)
  2. Kissinger’s reference is to a proposed exchange of letters between himself and Bitsios regarding further discussions of issues of interest between Greece and the United States.
  3. Kissinger and Bitsios signed “Principles to Guide Future U.S.-Greek Defense Cooperation” on April 15 at 12:30 p.m. The text of the agreement was reported in telegram 90619 to NATO and related military commands on April 16. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, 1976)
  4. Telegram 90622 to NATO and related military commands, April 16, relayed the exchange of letters between Representative Lee Hamilton (D–Indiana) and Kissinger on April 8 and 13, regarding the U.S.-Turkish Defense Cooperation Agreement of March 26. While Hamilton supported strengthening the U.S.-Turkish relationship, he wanted assurances from Kissinger that the agreement would not raise the level of tension between Greece and Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean. (Ibid.)
  5. The meeting was held on April 15 at 11:45 a.m. in the Secretary’s office. In this final negotiating session with Bitsios, Kissinger asked that Greece discuss with the United States any plans to declare a 12-mile limit on territorial waters. The Secretary also offered U.S. help with expediting weapons deliveries to Greece. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 275, Memoranda of Conversations, Chronological File)