158. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Summary of Dr. Brzezinski’s Meeting with Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Turgut Ozal


  • Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Paul Henze, NSC Staff Member for Turkey
  • Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Turgut Ozal
  • Turkish Ambassador Şükrü Elekdag

After preliminary reflections on Turkish-Polish historical links, Dr. Brzezinski said he was well aware of the important role Mr. Ozal had played in the Turkish economic recovery program and expressed pleasure that he had assumed such a significant position in the new government.2 He said he would first like to mention two political concerns that were very important to the United States:

—The desirability of getting Turkish-Greek issues settled and Greece back into NATO so that Greece, Turkey and the U.S. could all benefit from restoration of normal relations; and

—The fact that we all needed Turkey’s help and input into the Iran-Iraq situation, which now appeared likely to drag out into a war of attrition. (C)

In connection with the latter point, he asked Mr. Ozal to enlist his government in efforts, whenever the opportunity presented itself, to impress upon the Iranians that as long as Iran had a good relationship with the United States, its security was not jeopardized; since it had worsened this relationship, its own security had been drastically un[Page 482]dermined. This point needed to be made in connection with the hostages, Dr. Brzezinski stressed—Iran could advance its own security interests by releasing the hostages. (C)

In connection with the first point, Mr. Ozal said that he agreed fully on the desirability of settling issues with Greece, but he asked for understanding of the fact that General Evren and his military could not arbitrarily take decisions without taking into account their own constituency and public opinion. He recounted his experience in dissuading them from appointing Feyzioglu as Prime Minister to demonstrate that they are not inclined to act arbitrarily or dictatorially.3 Mr. Ozal then went on to mention two issues of major concern to him and his government:

—The need for economic help in generous quantities during the coming year; and

—The urgent need for more military help to permit modernization of the Turkish armed forces so that they could play a more substantial role in the region. (C)

He expanded upon the first point by describing his successful conversations this past week in Washington and added that he had a commitment from German Finance Minister Matthoefer to match the U.S. economic aid contribution during the coming year. (C)

In connection with the second point he said that the Turkish armed forces were actually in poorer condition in respect to equipment than either the Iraqis or the Iranians but he was sure that they were far better trained and disciplined as a result of NATO membership. With better equipment they could be an important factor for strength in the area. He added that perhaps the most urgent immediate requirement was F–4’s for the Turkish Air Force. (C)

He then went on to state what he described as purely personal views. He believed we understood, he said, the basic commitment of the Turkish people to democracy. “It has become part of our way of life in Turkey,” he said, “so that we cannot do without it. But what we have had in recent years has not been democracy but anarchy. We have to correct the system now so that democracy can function well for a long period of time. This is going to take time. We cannot move too fast. You must not expect that we will return to democracy overnight. My own feeling is that it may take a year or two—but we want to do it well. Our military have proved that they understand the need for democracy and [Page 483] there is the example of their actions in both 1960 and 1971. But don’t press them too much.” (C)

Dr. Brzezinski said he understood. Turkey was not like Argentina. It was much more fortunate in its military leadership. Mr. Ozal agreed. He had one final request, he said—Turkey was losing 50% of its imported petroleum supply as a result of Iraq-Iran hostilities. It might need our help in getting alternate supplies. He hoped we would keep this in mind. Dr. Brzezinski said we would see urgently what we could do. (C)

Dr. Brzezinski asked Mr. Ozal to convey his best wishes to General Evren and recalled that he had been impressed with the general when he had visited here the year before last and had enjoyed his conversation with him. (C)

Dr. Brzezinski then took Mr. Ozal and Ambassador Elekdag on a short tour of the White House before seeing them off at the West Wing portico. (C)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 34, Memcons: Brzezinski: 7–4/80. Confidential. The meeting took place in Brzezinski’s office. Although no drafting information appears on the memorandum, Henze forwarded a draft to Brzezinski on October 3. Brzezinski wrote in the margin: “Good notes. You have total recall.” (Ibid.)
  2. In telegram 7265 from Ankara, October 3, the Embassy reported: “Turkey’s military-led administration has in a very short time gotten itself organized, formed a civilian government, issued and approved an action program, passed some laws and settled in for its major tasks. On the agenda are plans for restructuring the country’s political system, revising the Constitution, combating terrorism, expanding the economy and hobbling political activists in the educational and labor sectors. By any measure it is a large order, but if the momentum and public support which have been exhibited thus far can be maintained for a reasonable period, many of the goals are attainable.” (National Archives, RG 59, Bureau of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, Lot 82D275, 1981 Human Rights and Country Files, Box 19, Turkey—Sept Thru Dec 1980)
  3. Turhan Feyzioglu, a former Deputy Prime Minister and the Chairman of the Republican Reliance Party, was rumored to be the military’s eventual choice to become Prime Minister in the days after the September 12 takeover. (Telegram 6769 from Ankara, September 18; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800445–0496)