153. Telegram 7775 From the Embassy in Turkey to the Department of State1 2


  • Opium Production


  • State 188129
Summary: In accordance with instructions reftel, I delivered President Nixon’s oral message to Prime Minister Demirel November 15 and presented to him proposal to require farmers who have planted poppies this fall to plow under their crops and not plant again. In doing so, I emphasized damage to US national welfare caused by heroin addiction and pointed out 80 percent of heroin in US originated from Turkish opium. I stressed extreme importance this subject as agenda item between Turkey and US and asked if there were anything US could do to help Turkey in taking actions we requested. Prime Minister referred to existing agreement and to what he described as “realistic” obstacles to going further. He agreed, however, to study problem and see what else could be done. End summary.
Opening my presentation, I read to Prime Minister Demirel President Nixon’s message as given reftel. After doing so _ elaborated upon damage caused to US life and welfare by drug problem and our estimate that 80 percent of heroin in US originated from Turkish opium refined in France. I also stressed that our approach to Turkey was only one of steps we are taking both vis-a-vis other foreign countries and at home. I then read to Prime Minister (but did not leave copy) President’s proposal as given para 4 reftel. I said I realized what we were asking [Page 2] Prime Minister to do was “tough” but was required by seriousness of problem.
Demirel replied that he was most familiar with the subject starting from his discussions with Ambassador Hart in 1967. He knew humanistic reasons why drug addiction should be wiped out. Prime Minister stated “we have done our best.” Turkish program is “realistic one.” Turkey has cut back poppy production from eleven to nine provinces this fall. If we had told you we would eliminate production this year, it would not have been possible. Areas we have cleaned out are those in which smuggling predominated. How can we tell several hundred farmers just to forget their poppy plantings? In many places poppies are grown for their oil which is an important part of farmers’ diet. I understand President Nixon’s views. You in turn should realize our problem. We have told you the best we can do. However, I will try again. It is impossible to go to the farmers and ask them to plow under their crops, we cannot control it. The poppies will just appear illegally. Where we have prohibited production, we do have facilities for enforcing the order.
At this point I said that subject was of such importance that President Nixon intended to raise it during Prime Minister’s Washington visit. Prime Minister then dwelt upon Turkish efforts to keep opium out of illegal trade. He spoke about organization of police forces and border controls. For example, in some places mines were placed on border to prevent smuggling. Possession of opium in Turkey carries extremely heavy penalty and traffickers are subject to being shot by authorities. I said we fully recognize magnitude of problem for him and how difficult our request was. However I could not stress too much how important narcotics was as agenda item between Turkey and US. Impact of addiction in US forced US to give it this importance. I asked if there was anything US could do to help Turkey meet President Nixon’s request.
Prime Minister said problem was just one of money which farmers earned from poppies. Poppy planting was an institution, a way of life for certain farmers. During campaign while visiting Malatya area he found signs every hundred meters on road from airport saying “please don’t prohibit poppy cultivation.” Government in its eradication program is fighting habit which [Page 3] has existed for centuries.
I then informed Prime Minister of visit to Ankara of BNDD Director Ingersoll and Regional Director Cusack. They were here to provide professional advice on narcotics problem. I asked whom they might talk with in Turkish Government. Prime Minister suggested Minister of Interior and said he would be in touch with him. Conversation ended with my repeating once again importance of this subject to our relations and Prime Minister’s agreeing to study what else might be done.
Subsequently I found occasion describe to Munis Faik Ozansoy, Under Secretary in Prime Minister’s office, seriousness of this problem but did not mention President Nixon’s message or proposal. Ozansoy in past has monitored eradication program for Prime Minister.
Comment: I intend to see that everything possible is done to secure maximum Turkish cooperation in bringing halt to opium production. I agree with thought in para one reftel that publicity about our approaches to GOT would only do damage to prospects of success and therefore hope that knowledge of this entire effort, especially of Presidential message, will be carefully restricted in Washington. Prime Minister was obviously surprised by far-reaching nature of President’s request but should now be under no illusions about seriousness with which President views problem. After further discussions with Ingersoll I will submit recommendations on how to proceed.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files1967-69, INCO-DRUGS 17 US. Confidential; Priority; Limdis.
  2. Ambassador Handley reported that he had delivered the President’s message to Turkish Prime Minister Demirel and presented him with a proposal to eradicate poppy production. Demirel agreed to study the problem.