155. Minutes of the Secretary of State’s Regional Staff Meeting1 2

[Omitted here is material unrelated to drug policy]

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Okay. Shall we talk about Turkey.

MR. DAVIES: Mr. Secretary, there are indications that the Turks are about to reach a decision or may even have reached a decision to rescind the ban on poppy growing in Turkey. From the Turkish viewpoint, this is more a nationalist issue than an economic issue. There are only 80,000 farmers who raise poppies. And the most foreign exchange the Turks have earned from the sale of gum opium is $5 million.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Is that legal sales?

MR. DAVIES: That is the illicit sales, illegal sales. We have no estimate of the revenue accruing to farmers from illicit sales, but the farmer is the low man on the totem pole. It is the dealers, the establishment in Istanbul, who make all the profits.

[Page 2]

From our standpoint, the risk of resumed illicit traffic out of Turkey, restocking the heroin factories in Marseilles, is tremendous. Prior to the ban our experts estimated that 70 to 80 percent of the heroin coming into New York City was based on Turkish gum opium.

Politically, there would be great criticism in Washington for the understanding we arrived at—it was not an agreement, it was an understanding. The Turks moved unilaterally to prevent planting. We committed $35.7 million to ease their problem—

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Why are we focusing on the Turks, when there are so many other countries producing opium?

MR. DAVIES: Because this was the principal supplier to the United States, sir. And the results of cutting down shipments out, of Turkey have been dramatic. I am told that the price of heron in New York has tripled. The street vendors are adulterating the heroin so that in some cases detoxification is taking place on the streets.

MR. SONNENFELDT: It was the major success of our narcotics program.

MR. DAVIES: It is the biggest success of our narcotics control program. And the President has involved himself in it, praising the Turkish decision, and [Page 3] making it the keystone of our international effort.

We have two questions, Mr. Secretary. Are we going to oppose this; and if so, to what extent?

There will be moves in the Congress to put a ceiling on military aid to Turkey, maybe even prevent it. There already have been some bills introduced.

As you see from our paper, we hope that this Administration will not invoke that sanction. We think that our strategic security interests in Turkey are such that we should not risk—


MR. DAVIES: I think it is worth a try, Mr. Secretary, to try to persuade the Turks to follow through on the policy they embarked upon twenty months ago.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: If we don’t threaten cutting off our military aid, can we then still win?

MR. DAVIES: Sir, it may be beyond our—if the Congress puts on a sanction, we will either be limited in what we can do for the Turks or we may have to fight a battle with our own legislature to get a Presidential waiver written in.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Waiver to what—that no country selling opium can—

[Page 4]

MR. DAVIES: That our national security interests in Turkey override the ban. But we would urge, sir, that we make the attempt. We would hope that you would involve yourself in a demarche to Ambassador Esenbel, who has just returned after consultation on this issue.

As a fallback, if we decide that the Turks, for domestic political reasons, have made the decision, and we are not going to be able to turn it off, then we would advocate going to them to propose that instead of going back to the old system of individual cultivation, individual farmers slicing the pods and collecting the opium, that they move to the opium straw process, which does away with the incision and the collection of, gum opium, takes the whole plant, treats it with an alkaloid process, and moves directly to the morphine stage.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: That means they have to enforce that on the individual farmers?

MR. SONNENFELDT: How much money does that cost us?

MR. DAVIES: We still have $20 million—

SECRETARY KISSINGER: How would they go about enforcing that on the farmers? Unless Turkish farmers are different from others, they don’t take kindly to the government telling them how to harvest crops.

MR. DAVIES: It has been successful over the past [Page 5] two years, Mr. Secretary. And we think that the Turkish—

SECRETARY KISSINGER: How can it be successful if there has been no production?

MR. INGERSOLL: The government shut it off.

MR. DAVIES: There has been no poppy—

MR. INGERSOLL: Now they are talking about rescinding this.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: My point is you want them to harvest the poppy in a particular way.

MR. DAVIES: Yes, sir. It would be grown in a restricted state farm and processed by a state factory.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: But that would not solve the Turkish political problem at all

MR. DAVIES: Yes, sir, I think it would, actually—because the problem is that the party which wasn’t supposed to win the election, except the voters had not read the Embassy assessment, campaigned on the issue of doing something for the opium farmer—

SECRETARY KISSINGER: What do you do to the opium farmer if you grow it on a state farm?

MR. DAVIES: They will provide the labor, sir, for the state farms in the Afyon area.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: I have never known farmers to take kindly to provide labor. Don’t they like to sell [Page 6] their own crop? I don’t know how it is in Turkey but—

MR. DAVIES: The penalty would be on incising the pod. The farmer would have to turn over his poppies unincised, and it would be an offense to be caught with an incised pod. We think that Turkey is—

MR. McCLOSKEY: Say that again. (Laughter)

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Maybe I should call the Ambassador there and tell him not to incise his pods. (Laughter)

MR. DAVIES: But this would be the system.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: At least he has given me a foreign policy problem I can handle. (Laughter)

MR. DAVIES: But our recommendations, Mr. Secretary, are that we go to the Turks and seek to assist them in carrying out their present program of crop replacement— if necessary seeking additional resources, although this may create problems with our Congress.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Aren’t you telling me that they are cancelling the program? In other words, you want them to continue the program that they wish to cancel.

MR. DAVIES: Yes, sir.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: And in return for that, we are doing what?

MR. DAVIES: We would then lend them increased [Page 7] assistance in crop substitution projects.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: We would increase the assistance we are giving them now.

MR. DAVIES: Mr. Secretary, they have only spent $5 million of the $20 million available for projects in this area.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Then how can we increase the assistance?

MR. DAVIES: We would propose technical assistance to speed up their production of new crops, new seeds. They have a program which we worked out with them—

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Well, unless I miss a point here, how is the answer to their decision to stop the program our offer that they should continue the program?

MR. DAVIES: Because the government would offer additional benefits to the farmer and would say that these benefits stem from continued observance of the poppy ban. We would also propose that we get the World Bank involved to try to get some multilateral projects, to lift the state of agriculture across Turkey. This is not really a problem of the poverty of the opium farmers alone, Mr. Secretary. The Turkish farming population is still in a primitive state. And it is a political ploy of the [Page 8] Republican People’s Party that has made opium an issue at this particular time.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Is that Ecevit’s party?


SECRETARY KISSINGER: He was a student of mine. Maybe I can appeal to him on those grounds.

MR. SISCO: The difficulty is that both sides are committed to doing something. One party said categorically to rescind. And the other side—we have got this situation under review.

I am a little less optimistic that we can succeed in convincing them. I think myself that the recommendation that is made is sound in the sense that we ought to make another attempt with the Turks, because it is quite a show case in terms of our situation, and also to offer a speed-up on the payment of this money within the framework of the $20 million. I am assuming you are not thinking in terms of trying to go to the Congress to get something beyond the $20 million, because I think we would have real difficulty in doing that.

MR. DAVIES: Agreed.

MR. SISCO: So that the only thing the Secretary has to offer is a speed-up on these payments, which I have the feeling the Turks will not consider to be a sufficient [Page 9] quid pro quo. And it is the politics of the thing, in any event.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: What do we do if that offer that they should not do what they have apparently determined not to do doesn’t work?

MR. DAVIES: Then, sir, we would propose that rather than going back to individual farm production, that they move to state farms and the poppy straw process. This could give us problems with the Congress. But since the Congress would say they were not able to control—

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Why is the poppy straw process such an advantage?

MR. DAVIES: It skips the stage of collection of gum opium and moves right to morphine, by treating the whole plant. It crushes the plant rather than extracting the sap from the pod, through excision.

MR. MAW: Does it salvage the edible oils?

MR. DAVIES: I am not familiar with the process. I would think certainly that the oil from the seed would be salvageable.

MR. MAW: That is one of the big gripes.

MR. DAVIES: In economic terms, it is peripheral. There were something like 800 poppy seed mills processing the seeds from the pods before the ban.

[Page 10]

MR. INGERSOLL: I think you are aware that we would have a serious problem in Thailand and Burma if Turkey started this program again. We have been making some progress there. If they saw a resumption of production there, I think it would be difficult for them to contain their own countries.

MR. BROWN: Haven’t we encouraged India to go into this?

MR., DAVIES: There is a shortage of opiates—

MR. BROWN: We are pushing the Indians to go in and produce this stuff.

MR. MAW: The Narcotics Control Convention works in India. And you are doing something in Burma.

MR. INGERSOLL: Burma and Thailand really cannot control it.

MR. MAW: They can’t?

MR. INGERSOLL: No. They are trying to. But they are not capable.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: So what is the decision we have to make now?

MR. DAVIES: Basically, sir, whether to have the Turkish Ambassador in at a very senior level, either you, Joe, or Mr. Rush, to make clear the concern of the United [Page 11] States Government, reaffirm the concern of the United States Government that this understanding which was reached with Prime Minister Melen may be reversed by President Ecevit’s government—to say that we would be prepared to explore with them what we can do in the poppy growing area, to speed up the income substitution process.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Why don’t we get Joe or Ken to do it? He is a high enough level.

MR. SISCO: The Turkish Ambassador has already apparently called and wants an appointment.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: He knows where the top is here.

MR. SISCO: He has just gotten used to dealing with me on this problem over the last five years—that is all. It is habit.

MR. DAVIES: Mr. Secretary, we already have other governments going in.

MR. SISCO: I think if you get a new face—in all seriousness—if you get a new face, preferably you—and I know your time is limited—at least Ken Rush, I think it would be very desirable.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: I want to preserve myself for breaking the deadlock by coming up with a straw poppy. I don’t want to waste myself on speeding up payment of $15 million.

[Page 12]

MR. SISCO: Maybe Ken can take it on.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: Let Ken take it on.

MR. SISCO: I will have to see the Turkish Ambassador at his request in any event.

SECRETARY KISSINGER: You might mention it. And then have Ken make a formal demarche. When is Ken coming back?

MR. INGERSOLL: Tomorrow morning.

MR. DAVIES: Then, Mr. Secretary, we would like Mr. McNamara to respond to the Turkish appeal, at the last Narcotics Control Board meeting, for assistance for its agricultural sector, to—

SECRETARY KISSINGER: But can he make it conditional on their cooperating with us?

MR. DAVIES: He certainly can make that explicit, sir.

MR. SISCO: I will call McNamara.

[Omitted here is material unrelated to drug policy]

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Transcripts of Secretary of State Kissinger’s Staff Meetings, 1973–1977, Entry 5177, Box 2, Secretary’s Regional Staff Meetings, 03/12/74. Secret.
  2. Secretary Kissinger discussed how to respond to the likely reintroduction of poppy growing in Turkey.