107. Telegram From the Embassy in Turkey to the Department of State1

574. For Spiegel. Subject: Uncleared Report of Secretary’s Visit to Ankara.

1. Introduction: During the nineteen-hour visit to Ankara January 20–21, the Secretary had two working meetings with Prime Minister Ecevit which lasted a total of four hours. As foreshadowed in Ecevit’s original invitation, these meetings dealt with a wide range of bilateral and global issues. The central issue discussed however, and the one to which Ecevit returned time after time, was the status of the U.S.-Turkish bilateral relationship. Ecevit repeatedly affirmed a desire and [Page 335] an intention to revitalize what he called the stagnant bilateral relationship, but his comments revealed that he has not fully made up his mind about how he wants to accomplish that task. The following summarizes conversations between the Secretary and Prime Minister Ecevit January 20–21.

2. The first working session took place after dinner January 20 and lasted two hours. Ecevit began this session by explaining that his government places great value on the U.S.-Turkish relationship, and for that reason his party while in opposition had avoided making the question of the stagnant U.S.-Turkish relationship an emotional issue. He said it appeared that on the U.S. side the basic reason for the deteriorated state of the relationship had to do with internal political factors. He said that Turkey was forced to accept this as a fact of life but it was sometimes difficult to deal with and Turks sometimes wondered if there were not some other deeper reason for the U.S. attitude.

3. Ecevit said that the stagnation in relations between the two countries had done great damage to Turkish security and that Turkey could not continue to allow its security to deteriote. He volunteered that he was not talking about a threat from the Soviet Union. He said he was not aware of any particular increase in pressures from the Soviet Union, and although Turkey is always aware of the Soviet reality, it was not the current cause for concern. The present problem has to do with the rapid increase in armaments in the countries neighboring Turkey on the west, east and south. Ecevit said that since the United States is the source of many of these arms, Turkey wonders if there might be some hidden reason.

4. Ecevit said he had concluded that the time had come for a reevaluation of the U.S.-Turkish relationship. To help him in this he would appreciate being brought up to date on developments in U.S.-Soviet relations which might affect Turkey. He specifically asked whether it was true as had been widely rumored that the United States and the Soviet Union had come to a gentlemen’s agreement three or four years ago to divide the world into spheres of influence with the Middle East being left to the United States.

5. Ecevit then said he believed the “phenomenal development” of Turkish democracy had been given undue weight by Turkey’s friends in their dealings with Ankara. He said that Turkey is the only developing country that has been successful in maintaining democracy uninterrupted since World War II. Ecevit said he thought this achievement should be considered by Turkey’s Western allies to be more important than the bravery of Turkish soldiers. If this factor doesn’t carry any weight with the Carter administration, he said, he feared that it would never carry any weight.

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6. In response to Ecevit’s opening remarks, the Secretary said the United States had taken note of the lack of emotionalism in Turkey about the state of the U.S.-Turkish relationship and appreciated it. The Secretary said he agreed with the Prime Minister’s view that domestic political factors in the United States played a significant role in the strain in U.S.-Turkish relations. He said that when the Carter administration had taken office, it had very carefully evaluated the possibility of getting a Turkish-U.S. Defense Cooperation Agreement through Congress. As a result of this evaluation, the Carter administration had determined that the votes simply were not there. The Secretary said he thought this situation was changing however. He expected that the DCA would come up for discussion in the Congress in March of this year and he was hopeful that it would be passed.

7. The Secretary then responded to Ecevit’s question about the status of U.S.-Soviet relations with a brief summary of the areas of cooperation and competition between the two countries. He also specifically denied the existance of a gentlemen’s agreement between the U.S. and USSR as described by Ecevit. He reviewed recent developments in the SALT talks and expressed his personal judgment that a new agreement would be possible by April of this year. The Secretary said he also believed that substantial progress had been made toward a comprehensive test ban and that work was proceeding satisfactorily on the question of armaments limitation in the Indian Ocean and on a chemical warfare agreement.

8. The Secretary said that during the past year the most important area of contention between the United States and the Soviet Union has been in the field of human rights. Two other areas of dispute in US-Soviet relations were the Soviet role in the Horn of Africa and the unsatisfactory bilateral trade relationship which had resulted from U.S. legislative restrictions.

9. The Secretary then responded to Ecevit’s complaint that Turkey’s success in democracy had been given inadequate recognition by its allies, particularly the United States. He acknowledged that democracy is particularly important to the Carter administration and said that Turkey’s successes had perhaps not been taken into account sufficiently. He promised to review that question.

10. The Secretary then asked the Prime Minister what he considered to be the most important problems in the U.S.-Turkish bilateral relationship and what major problems Turkey faced in its relations with neighboring countries.

11. Referring to the Secretary’s comments about progress toward a new SALT agreement, Ecevit asked if the development of the neutron bomb would affect that progress. The Secretary said it would not. What it might affect, he said, would be the deployment of forces in Central [Page 337] Europe since the neutron bomb would be a particularly effective weapon against armor formations. The Secretary went on to say that if our allies do not believe that deployment of such a weapon on their territory is a good idea, then the United States is clearly not interested in deploying it. The United States had still not received a clear answer, however, about the attitudes of its allies.

12. In response to the Secretary’s question about trouble spots in the U.S.-Turkish bilateral relationship, Ecevit said the first problem is the role the United States plays—perhaps in spite of itself—in the deterioration of Turkish-Greek relations. He explained that as long as Greece believes it has the unqualified support of the United States, it will not be willing to negotiate seriously with Turkey. He said that when the two countries had been left alone to solve their problems, they had been quite successful in doing so.

13. A second problem in the bilateral relationship Ecevit identified as military cooperation. He said his government wanted to dissociate the embargo from the DCA. He said the embargo was a clearly negative factor which should be removed first. Then, he said, the United States could proceed to the “positive possibility” of the DCA. Ecvit said the DCA should be reviewed in the light of developments since it was signed in March 1976—increased arms sales to Turkey’s neighbors, depreciation of the dollar and increases in cost of arms. He also said that the DCA as it stands calls for an immeasurably larger contribution from Turkey than from the United States.

14. Ecevit said that in contrast with the previous government, his government intended to accord priority to the development of Turkey’s economy. That economy, he said, was in particularly bad shape as a result of the United States arms embargo, the need for oil imports, and the mistakes of the previous government. The DCA, as it is now written, increases those burdens without providing any “compensating vitalism”, he said. Ecevit acknowledged that it would be a difficult task to rewrite the DCA but he thought perhaps it could be supplemented by elements of economic cooperation. He suggested that such cooperation could be in the fields of arms industries or in other fields. Regardless the purpose would be to compensate for the burdens imposed on the Turkish economy by the DCA.

15. Referring to the Secretary’s comments on US-Soviet relations, Ecevit said he was pleased that the Secretary had indicated relations between the two countries were improving. Particularly under these circumstances, Ecevit said, Turkey did not want to take actions which might be considered provocative by its neighbors. He said that in conversations with Soviet leaders he had found them to be particularly concerned about the American “observation installations” in Turkey. Ecevit said he had gained the impression that the reactivation of those [Page 338] installations would be considered provocative. He said he himself did not consider them provocative and he recognized that Turkey had a responsibility to the Alliance and to the world with respect to the installations. However, he wanted to lighten Turkey’s burden in this regard. He wondered, he said, if the United States would consider trying to incorporate these installations into a SALT agreement with the Soviet Union.

16. The Secretary said that national technical verification capability had been an important element in the SALT talks. Since the intelligence installations in Turkey were of a similar nature, he said he would be glad to explore the Prime Minister’s proposal as a technical question. He said he didn’t know whether it would work or not but he would look into it. He said he did not think anything could be done in this regard until SALT III.

17. Ecevit again said that Turkey did not want to shirk its responsibility to the Alliance. On the other hand, he felt that Turkish security had been unduly endangered by its participation in the Alliance. He said that in his view, Turkey had been used as a tool by the allies, forcing the Soviet Union to concentrate forces in the Caucasus and thereby reducing the burden on Western Europe. He again said that he thought it was time for Allied attitudes toward Turkey to undergo a transformation. He said that Turkey should be evaluated not for her military contribution but for her political development, i.e. her success in democracy. He said he wanted Turkey to be considered something more than a collection of brave soldiers.

18. Responding to Ecevit’s expressed wish that the United States dissociate Greek-Turkish relations from US-Turkish relations, the Secretary said that in so far as the Cyprus problem is concerned, the United States has no desire to be involved. He said that if Turkey, Greece, and Cyprus can solve the problem by themselves, the United States would be delighted.

19. The Secretary said that the Prime Minister’s suggestion that the DCA might be expanded to include economic cooperation raised a number of complex and difficult issues which he needed to reflect on before giving him an answer. At the same time, the Secretary said there was one potential problem with the DCA that he wanted to point out. He said there are some people in Congress who have a fundamental difficulty with the concept of four-year agreements. He said he didn’t think this opposition was insurmountable, but he simply wanted to advise the Prime Minister that it does exist.

20. Ecevit then reviewed Turkey’s bilateral relationships with its neighbors. Turning first to Iran, he said Turkey had no problems in its relationship with Iran, but there were no cooperative developments either, despite what Turkey sees as extensive opportunity. The Secretary [Page 339] said he had discussed this problem with the Iranians and he suggested that the Prime Minister again raise with Iran the possibility of increased cooperation.

21. Ecevit said Turkey had increasingly good relations with the Arab states, particularly Iraq and Libya. He said he recognized that the United States did not have good relations with those two countries, and he suggested that those relationships be re-evaluated because he believed these two countries—more than any other oil-producing countries—try to use their money for the good of their people. The Secretary noted that recent US efforts to improve relations with Iraq had been rebuffed.

22. Ecevit then turned to Greek-Turkish relations. He said the Aegean issue is an increasingly important problem in the relationship between the two countries. Turkey could not forego its rights in the Aegean, he asserted. With respect to Greek claims that Turkey harbors expansionist aims, Ecevit said he would be willing to give any kind of guarantee that Turkey has no designs on the Greek islands of the Aegean.

23. Ecevit said he is willing to enter a high-level political dialogue with Greece soon as possible, but he noted that the Greeks seemed reluctant. He said he realized summit talks required extensive groundwork, but he thought that it might even be possible to have a top-level talk even to prepare the groundwork for future meetings.

24. Ecevit said he realized that Greek Prime Minister Caramanlis would have greater political problems than he would with a summit meeting. Nevertheless, he said he believed that Caramanlis attaches some value to improving Greek-Turkish relations. He noted that Caramanlis is perhaps at the peak of his career and may not be around much longer. After Caramanlis goes, Ecevit said, it might be too late. This opportunity should not be missed.

25. Ecevit then said that the military balance between Greece and Turkey had been upset in recent years. He said that he sincerely believed that Greeks and Turks have no basic conflicts, but he was convinced that the Greeks would not be prepared to enter into a sincere dialogue until the present military imbalance is corrected.

26. On the Cyprus question Ecevit said that his government wanted the Turkish Cypriots to take the initiative on both the territorial and constitutional questions. He cautioned, however, that the Greeks should not expect too much from the Turkish proposals. He said he had been prepared to be generous on territory in 1974, but because of permanent settlements that have taken place in the intervening period, adjustments in the demarcation line would be more difficult. He also said that his government is committed to a Cyprus settlement based on a federal framework. Such a solution, he said, would be the healthiest so [Page 340] lution and would avert the possibility of partition. Ecevit said that both sides must accept the reality that the two communities must live separately. On the other hand, however, freedom of movement should be possible in time.

27. The Secretary thanked the Prime Minister and said he shared his view that a federal framework provides the only chance for a viable solution. He then asked if Ecevit had been in touch with Kyprianou. Ecevit pointed out that Kyprianou is not his counterpart. He said that from what he had read, however, he thought that Mr. Kyprianou would not be an easy person for Mr. Denktash to deal with.

28. This session concluded with Ecevit saying that the Greek Cypriots and Greeks profess to believe that Turkey and Greece should not be involved in the Cyprus negotiations. Ecevit said, in his view, total uninvolvement is unrealistic. He believed that Turkey and Greece need not be directly involved but they would need to give encouragement to their ethnic counterparts in order for a settlement to be reached.

29. When the talks resumed the morning of January 21, the Secretary briefed the Prime Minister on the Middle East situation. The Secretary summarized in some detail the background, framework, and objectives of the Egyptian-Israeli talks. He explained that earlier in the week good progress had been made on some aspects of the talks, but at that point Sadat had recalled his delegation. The Secretary said that Sadat had explained to him that the recall of his Foreign Minister did not signify an end to his commitment to the talks.2 However, as a result of what he considered inflammatory statements made by Begin earlier in the week, he believed that it was necessary to have a cooling-off period. Otherwise he feared an uncontrolled escalation of counterstatements would have resulted. The Secretary said that Sadat had explained that he viewed what had happened as only a temporary setback. The Secretary told Ecevit that in his judgment the process will slow down for a time but will continue.

30. In response to the Secretary’s request for his views, Ecevit said he believed it would be very risky to tell the Palestinians they could not have a national homeland. He then returned to his view expressed during talks the previous evening concerning the importance of Libya and Iraq. He said he believed a Middle East solution would have to be satisfactory to them in order to be viable.

31. The Secretary then returned to the subject of the DCA and told Ecevit that during the night he had given some preliminary thought to the possibility, as suggested by Ecevit, of amending the DCA. He said [Page 341] that he believed an effort to amend the DCA would create a great many problems. Ecevit said he had not officially asked for amendment of the DCA.

32. The Secretary then brought up the subject of missing persons in Cyprus, being reported septel.3

33. Ecevit then reverted to the subject of the DCA. He said that the Secretary had mentioned the previous evening the possibility that Congress might wish to reduce the term of the agreement to less than four years. The result of such an effort, he said, would be public indignation in Turkey and damage to his government. To avoid this possibility he suggested that both governments should look into ways to cooperate, perhaps in amending the agreement. One possibility, he suggested, might be to take the initiative to shorten the agreed term of the DCA while keeping the financial commitments at the same level. After all, he pointed out, nearly half of its four year term has already passed, during which time prices have gone up and the dollar has lost value. He acknowledged, however, that he recognized the riskiness of an amendment effort. The Secretary strongly agreed that amending the DCA would be a very risky business.

34. The Secretary then clarified that he had mentioned the subject of congressional opposition to a four year term agreement only because there are one or two Senators who might bring it up as a matter of principle. He did not think they would carry the day, however.

35. The Prime Minister warned that an “unsavory” discussion in Congress would have its counterpart in the Turkish Parliament. It might make the DCA more palatable, he said, to reduce it to two years while maintaining the same financial commitment.

36. Ecevit then shifted the subject to Greek-Turkish relations. He said that the Secretary had stated that the United States did not want to be involved in the disputes concerning Cyprus or the Aegean. Ecevit said the fact is that the United States is involved but it only focuses on Cyprus and ignores the Aegean which is extremely important to Turkey. He repeated his statement of previous evening that Turkey could not forego its rights in the Aegean.

37. Ecevit also complained that, although Greece has heavily armed its Aegean islands, the United States has not objected. He also said that Greece is deploying arms it has acquired from the United [Page 342] States not for collective defense but against Turkey. The Secretary said that he had, in fact, raised the problem of militarization of the Aegean islands with the Greeks at the request of the GOT. MFA Secretary General Elekdag intervened to say that he did not recall that GOT had ever requested that we do so. The Secretary said that the United States had raised the issue with Caramanlis in London.4 In response the Greeks had explained that they were taking action only in self-defense. Nevertheless, the Secretary said that he had made it clear that he was concerned that he considered the matter serious.

38. During this exchange Elekdag brought up the subject of an exchange of letters between Secretary Kissinger and Greek Foreign Minister Bitsios concerning the Turkish-U.S. DCA.5 Ecevit said that Ambassador Macomber had given him a copy of those letters, and Foreign Minister Caglayangil had passed on his reaction to the letters to Kissinger but had never received a response. Later in the conversation, Defense Minister Isik suggested that the United States provide Turkey with a letter about the arming of the Aegean islands similar to the one Kissinger had given Bitsios on the U.S.-Turkish DCA.

39. Ecevit again expressed his concern about the serious military imbalance developing between Greece and Turkey. He said this imbalance must be remedied if there is to be a dialogue. The Greeks, he suggested, do not want to make a serious effort to resolve the Aegean dispute, preferring to let the talks drag on indefinitely.

40. Ecevit then asked the Secretary when it might be possible to discuss further the details of bilateral problems. The Secretary said the two sides should aim for beginning of discussion after the middle of February.

41. Ecevit said he would like to know whether the United States would be able to help Turkey deal with its immediate economic problems, both by bilateral assistance and advice and by using its good offices with the International Monetary Fund. The Secretary said that the United States would be willing to express its views to the IMF.6 He [Page 343] said he would talk to Secretary Blumenthal after returning to Washington and would be back in touch with Ecevit. Ecevit asked if the United States would be willing to consider some kind of supplemental economic support without the DCA. The Secretary asked that the Prime Minister make specific proposals. With respect to the immediate future, however, the aid bill had already been completed.

42. Returning to his idea that the embargo and the DCA should be dissociated, the Prime Minister asked the Secretary whether he believed the embargo should be lifted first. The Secretary said it was a difficult political question and he would prefer to go through the congressional hearings on the DCA in March. Prime Minister said that lifting the embargo would ease his political problems; however, he was not pressing it.

43. Ecevit then brought up the question of Kurdish separatism. He said Turks have the impression that the United States backs the Kurdish national movement. The Secretary assured him that the United States was not supporting the Kurdish national movement.

44. As the discussion ended, Elekdag asked about the possibility of defense support assistance. The Secretary said that inasmuch as the aid bill had been completed, defense support assistance for Turkey would require supplemental legislation, and he would need to discuss that possibility with the President.

45. Elekdag and the Prime Minister then returned to the question of timing for congressional action on the DCA. Prime Minister said he had been told the US had given the GOT to understand last fall that hearings on the DCA would begin in December. Elekdag confirmed that statement, and complained that now it appeared that the earliest possible time would be March. The Secretary said he would talk to the appropriate committee chairman on the subject of a calendar.

46. Department please pass info addressees as desired.

  1. Source: Department of State, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Cyrus R. Vance, Secretary of State—1977–1980, Lot 84D241, Box 9, Vance Nodis MemCons, 1978. Secret; Immediate; Nodis.
  2. See Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. VIII, Arab-Israeli Dispute, January 1977–August 1978, Document 204.
  3. The Embassy reported the discussion on missing persons in telegram 575 from Ankara, January 23. Ecevit characterized the issue of Greek Cypriots missing since the 1974 conflict (which he numbered at thirty) as a tactic used by the Greek Cypriots to “bog down” the intercommunal talks. (Department of State, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Cyrus R. Vance, Secretary of State—1977–1980, Lot 84D241, Box 9, Vance Nodis MemCons, 1978)
  4. Reference is to the May 10, 1977, meeting between Carter and the Greek Prime Minister. See Document 166. The issue of militarization of the Aegean islands was brought up by Carter, who relayed Turkish concerns over this trend.
  5. The exchange of letters, which occurred after the signing of the U.S.-Turkish DCA on March 26, 1976, is described in telegram 86157 to Athens, April 9. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840098–2517) See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XXX, Greece; Cyprus; Turkey, 1973–1976, Documents 62 and 64.
  6. Turkish Finance Minister Ziya Müezzinoğlu further pressed this case with Treasury Secretary Michael Blumenthal during a meeting in Washington on March 23. Müezzinoğlu was in Washington to sign a letter of intent with the IMF to secure its assistance to stabilize the Turkish economy. Blumenthal assured Müezzinoğlu that there was no U.S. “economic embargo” against Turkey and that the United States remained supportive of the Turkish economic program. (Telegram 85814 to Ankara, April 4; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780144–1146)