160. Telegram From Secretary of State Muskie to the Department of State and the Embassy in Turkey1

Secto 10010. Subject: (U) NAC Ministerials: Secretary’s Bilateral Meeting With Turkish Foreign Minister Turkmen.

1. (S-entire text).

2. Secretary Muskie opened the meeting by expressing US appreciation for efforts made by the Turkish Government to bring about Greek reintegration. The Secretary described this as a “real service” which served the interests of both Greece and Turkey, as well as the United States. Minister Turkmen said that the difficulties he had earlier anticipated had not arisen and the matter had gone smoothly. Although not formally involved, Secretary Muskie had undoubtedly played an important role in these events, which the Turkish Government appreciated.2

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3. Responding to a question from the Secretary, Minister Turkmen said that the internal situation in Turkey was progressing satisfactorily. The first task of the new government had been to eradicate terrorism, since this was a precondition for the return to democracy. The campaign against terrorists was going well, and success could be expected. Meanwhile, the National Security Council had developed a step-by-step approach to a restoration of democracy, and no one in Turkey doubted that such a restoration would be accomplished. One present problem was pressure from various European groups and Parliamentarians, including the Council of Europe and the EC. This pressure could be expected to build, peaking with the Council of Europe sessions in April and May. But there was a chance that developments in Turkey meanwhile could do something to alleviate the pressure. Secretary Muskie said that the United States was aware of the commitment to democracy of the Turkish military. But it was understandable that there would be outside pressure for a return to democracy.

4. Turning to the state of the Turkish economy, Turkmen said much would depend on oil prices and supplies which in turn depend on the Iran-Iraq War. The Iraqis had resumed pumping, but at reduced levels which were less than what Turkish experts believed possible. To meet the expected shortfalls, the Turks had contacted other producers, notably the Saudis, but negotiations with the Saudis had not started. There had also been contacts with the IEA. Secretary Muskie noted that the IEA might be able to aid Turkey through a system of voluntarism, without bringing into play the complex triggering mechanisms. He noted Turkey should certainly be the object of this kind of voluntary effort. Given the high oil stocks, a voluntary system could be effective. It would also be useful to persuade the IEA to adopt ceilings so that trigger mechanisms could come into effect next year.

5. The Secretary asked about the possibilities of a ceasefire in the Iran-Iraq War. Turkmen said that there seemed no chance of this at the present and that the Iraqis were digging in for the winter. Turkey had considered offering itself as mediator, but had decided not to because so many potential mediators were already on the scene and because apparently neither side was ready for a negotiated settlement. Accordingly, Turkey was maintaining a stance of strict neutrality, and thought this had gained some credit in the eyes of both belligerents. The Soviet role in the conflict was worrisome. The Soviets had refused arms to Iraq and were providing some equipment to Iran through third parties, thus positioning themselves well whatever the eventual outcome. The Turks had warned the Jordanians of the dangers of collapse in Iran. But they seemed more concerned with the danger of collapse in Iraq. They had told the Turks that if this happened, not even the Americans could save Saudi Arabia.

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6. Turning to the question of economic aid, Turkmen said the Turkish balance of payments problem could become very serious unless the consortium could provide 1.7 billion dollars.3 Of this amount, the Turks hoped the US would provide 500 million dollars and the FRG an equal amount. The situation was tight and would be very difficult if that amount were not forthcoming. Meanwhile, Turkey was working to control inflation, increase government revenues and reform the tax laws. In addition, Turkey hoped for 400 million dollars in FMS credits. Congress might be in a more receptive mood to approve such amounts given the instability in Southwest Asia. Turkmen also urged that FMS credits be concessionary, since the Turkish economy would otherwise be burdened with repaying 2.80 dollars for every dollar of FMS credit extended. The Secretary said he had just made the assistance budget request to the President, but the President would have to find sufficient room in the budget for the overall amounts requested. Within the overall program, Turkey had a very important place, and if the monies could be found, the request we had made would be adequate for Turkish needs. However, there was no final decision yet, and the new administration would, of course, be the determining factor after January 20th.

7. In this regard, the Secretary noted that Turkish standing was currently high in Congress. But he cautioned against further deterioration in Turkish-Israeli relations, which could have a very negative effect on congressional opinion. Turkmen said the Turks had no intention of taking further steps in this area.4 As it was, Turkey’s relations with Israel were on a higher level than those of either Spain or Greece. He also noted that the Turks had been under some pressure to take the diplomatic steps which had been taken. Secretary Muskie said he understood conflicting pressures had to be reconciled and the Turks and Israelis continued to have diplomatic relations. What would be publicly perceived in the United States, however, was not the absolute level of such relations but negative changes. These could do great harm to Turkey’s standing on the Hill.

8. Responding to a question from the Secretary, Turkmen said that reasonable progress was being made in the Cyprus talks. They had been going on for three months and a UN General Assembly debate had been avoided—both hopeful signs. The Turks and Greeks were [Page 488] working on a plan to settle the problem of Varosha, but had not yet reached the stage of drawing maps. Discussion of this issue would move more smoothly if there could be a relaxation of economic pressure on the Turkish community. The two things go together. Turkmen added that the Turks had never believed Greek protestations that they had no influence with Greek Cypriots; now, however, they saw these claims were true because they themselves had difficulties with an increasingly vocal, more powerful and intransigent Turkish population.

9. Participants on the Turkish side were: Foreign Minister Turkmen; Ambassador Olcay; Mr. Batibay, Special Counselor to the Foreign Minister; Mr. N. Kandemir, MFA Director General for International Security Affairs. Participants on the US side were: Secretary Muskie; Leon Billings; DAS Holmes; Roger G. Harrison (notetaker).

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Subject Files of Edmund S. Muskie, 1963–1981, Lot 83D66, Box 2, unlabeled folder. Secret; Immediate. Sent for information Priority to Athens, Bonn, Copenhagen, The Hague, Lisbon, London, Luxembourg, Oslo, Ottawa, Paris, Reykjavik, Rome, USNATO, Nicosia, and USUN. Muskie was in Brussels for the 66th Ministerial meeting of NATO December 11–12.
  2. Greek forces were reintegrated into the NATO military command structure on October 20; see Document 209.
  3. Reference is to members of the OECD Consortium to Aid Turkey.
  4. In telegram 21531 from Tel Aviv, December 1, the Embassy reported that Turkey was reducing its diplomatic representation in Israel, with the plan to have only one accredited Turkish diplomat stationed in Israel by March 1981. A Turkish official suggested that the action was related to pressure from Iraq and Saudi Arabia, or what the telegram described as “oil blackmail.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800573–0430)