161. Telegram 0378 From the Embassy in Turkey to the Department of State 1 2

Paris: Pass Cusack


  • Opium Production


  • State 002886
Prime Minister Demirel received me last night (January 20) at 8:00 p.m. for discussion of the opium question. I had seen him three times in the past ten days but always in the company of a visiting American and had not myself brought up the opium question. However, when Senator Javits saw him on January 15. The Senator, as he had done earlier that day to President Sunay, spoke briefly but eloquently and effectively on the disastrous effect of heroin and narcotics addiction on the people of his state, New York. The Prime Minister replied to Senator Javits along familiar lines, saying that he had had discussions with me and earlier with Ambassador Hart and that Turkey was doing all it could to cut back on opium poppy production. Eventually, he said, there would be no production in Turkey.
I opened the discussion with an account of my conversation with the President on December 22. I told the Prime Minister that President Nixon wanted him to know that he considered Turkish-American relations of the highest importance and was very pleased to hear my account of their present state. But the President and his associates [Page 2] had expressed their great concern about the effect of opium production in Turkey on the quality of life in the US and their deep disappointment that the Turkish Government had not been able to take more drastic action to eliminate production. The situation as I saw it in Washington had clearly changed from what it had been when Ambassador Hart had first discussed the opium problem in the first place. The problem had become much graver and that during my visit to the US I had become more acutely aware of the intense preoccupation of Americans at all levels with the problem of narcotics. The relationship between crime and narcotics addiction was clearly evident and drastic measures were being taken to cope with the problem. Secondly, the present administration had decided to make the narcotics question, particularly the production and illegal import of opium, a major foreign policy objective. I gave the Prime Minister a copy of the clipping the President had given me from the New York Times of December 22 which pathetically recounted the story of the 50 youths in New York who had spent the day caroling in memory of the 210 teenagers who had killed themselves from overdoses of heroin in New York City that year. I also gave him a clipping from a recent edition of the Herald Tribune telling of the death in New York City of 900 people last year from narcotics as well as a clipping on Mr. Manfredi who died while attending a White House meeting on the narcotics question. I also gave him a copy of the book “Violent Crime-The Challenge to our Cities” autographed by Dr. Moynihan. I said to him that as a government servant who had spent some of the best years of his life as information officer, this was the first time I had given out a book of this kind which certainly did not show the US at its best.
Having decided that on the basis of what the Prime Minister had said to Senator Javits that something new was needed, I told him that I was authorized to offer the Government of Turkey a $5 million program grant for commodity imports to assist in the financial cost of destroying the crop that was now in the ground. The Prime Minister, who had been listening with the [Page 3] greatest attention and who seemed to me to be quite obviously impressed by the evidence of heightened importance given to the narcotics question by the US, said that Turkey was an ally of the US and wanted to do everything possible to help U.S. in this serious matter. He said “let us think of what we can do.” He thought that plowing under the present crop, from the standpoint of political and technical practicality, was virtually impossible, and he again reviewed some of his political problems. He also said that he did not think it was a question of money but of finding some new way to tackle the problem. He wanted me to let the President know that he would take a new look at the problem and see what could be done. He would be in touch with me later for further discussions on future courses of action.
Comment: I believe we made some headway at this meeting. There is no doubt that the activities of the US and French Governments, plus the recent execution by Iran of ten persons involved in opium smuggling from Turkey, as well as the USG’s high-level policy determinations, and the President’s close personal interest all combined to make the Prime Minister realize that this was indeed a new ball game. Although he did not make much of the $5 million grant offer, it could be very important to him if he decides to take the drastic step of destroying the present crop. I think I should for the moment leave it up to him to come up with some new proposals or considered reactions to last night’s discussion. If I do not hear from him in a week or two on the subject, I will take the initiative and ask for another meeting.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970-73, INCO-DRUGS TUR. Confidential; Limdis. Repeated to Paris.
  2. Ambassador Handley described a meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Demirel on opium production and conveyed President Nixon’s concerns about heroin addiction in the U.S.