162. Memorandum of Conversation1

PARTICIPANTS

  • Ambassador Menelas D. Alexandrakis, Greek Embassy, Washington, D.C.
  • Secretary of State-designate Cyrus R. Vance
  • Peter Tarnoff, Executive Assistant to the Secretary-designate

Ambassador Alexandrakis began by reading the text of a communication from his government to the next U.S. administration on the subject of relations between Greece and NATO. The message relayed the Greek Government’s intention to submit concrete proposals to the alliance in mid-January that are designed to meet both Greek and Allied defense needs. It expressed hope that the new U.S. administration would deal with events in the Eastern Mediterranean in “a balanced way”. The Greek government also indicated its willingness to settle rapidly its differences with NATO and its hope that the U.S. will view the Greek gesture as a first step, and as helping to clear the way for bilateral talks between the two countries.

Mr. Vance replied that he was very pleased to learn of the Greek intention which seemed like a constructive step. He indicated deep concern with the present situation in the Eastern Mediterranean and an interest in trying to help resolve the problems there. Mr. Vance said that he would become involved in these issues himself after January 20.

Ambassador Alexandrakis responded that the Greek government was encouraged by the election of Governor Carter and the nomination of Mr. Vance. He added that the five points that Secretary Kissinger had proposed at the last UNGA as a starting point for a Cyprus agreement had not satisfied Archbishop Makarios who had found them vague and inadequate.2 In response to a question from Mr. Vance, Ambassador Alexandrakis said that Makarios had made his negative reaction to the five points public. He urged the new U.S. administration not to pursue these five points since Makarios would prefer to meet Mr. Vance in person in order to discuss ways to reopen the intercommunal talks. For psychological reasons, it would not be “constructive” for the [Page 491]new administration to begin work on the Cyprus problem with the same proposals as its predecessor.

Mr. Vance indicated that he would take Ambassador Alexandrakis’ comments into consideration and would think about them.

Ambassador Alexandrakis then said that he was concerned that Governor Carter’s recent statements before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee indicated that the next U.S. government might not become involved in the Cyprus problem.3 After so many “omissions” in U.S. Cyprus policy, an attitude of “non-interference” might indicate a willingness to condone aggression. Ambassador Alexandrakis said that he was reassured to know that Mr. Vance was personally concerned with Cyprus. He looked forward to an era of new relations between the U.S. and Greece, explaining that there is no deep anti-Americanism in Greece.

Mr. Vance said that he hoped that relations between the U.S. and Greece would be friendly and fruitful. This was especially important to him because of his great personal affection and respect for the peo-ple and the country of Greece. He added that Governor Carter was also personally interested in bettering relations between the U.S. and Greece.

Ambassador Alexandrakis expressed his thanks for these statements and suggested that a visit by Prime Minister Caramanlis to the U.S. could help improve relations between Washington and Athens.

Mr. Vance said that he had heard excellent things about Caramanlis, and knew him to be an extraordinarily able leader. He and President Carter would very much look forward to a meeting with Caramanlis at a mutually convenient time in the future. It would be difficult to set a time for a meeting now but such a get-together was definitely possible in the future. Mr. Vance asked Ambassador Alexandrakis to extend his best wishes to Foreign Minister Bitsios for whom he has the highest regard. Knowing Bitsios from the UN and having worked with him on the Cyprus problem in 1967, Mr. Vance said that it would be a pleasure to collaborate with Bitsios again on issues of interest to both the Greek and American governments.4

  1. Source: Department of State, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Cyrus R. Vance, Secretary of State—1977–1980, Lot 84D241, Box 10, Memcons Vance Pre-Inaug. Confidential. Drafted by Tarnoff.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 3.
  3. Reference is to a statement made by Governor Carter on September 16, 1976, in the House, in which he criticized the Ford administration for “tilting away” from Greece and Cyprus. No record was found of Carter making a statement regarding Cyprus before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. (Congressional Record, September 20, 1976, p. 31388)
  4. Vance served as President Johnson’s envoy in November–December 1967 to support UN efforts to mediate the fighting in Cyprus. See Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. XVI, Cyprus; Greece; Turkey. For Vance’s account of his involvement in the Cyprus issue during the Johnson administration, see Hard Choices, pp. 144 and 168.