164. Telegram From the Embassy in Greece to the Department of State1

1396. Sub: Caramanlis Comments on Clifford Mission, Cyprus and Greek-Turkish Relations.

1. Last night following a dinner given by President Tsatsos I had the opportunity to have a private conversation with Prime Minister Caramanlis.

2. Clifford Mission. Caramanlis began by saying he was looking forward to the visit of Clark Clifford next week and asked whether I thought the program being arranged for Clifford here was satisfactory. I said that I had been in more or less continuous touch with Washington regarding it and that the program was shaping up excellently. I said that I was sure Clifford particularly appreciated the opportunity to call on Caramanlis so soon after his arrival and the substantial amount of time that had been set aside for both a private meeting and lunch with the Prime Minister the next day.2 Caramanlis inquired as to how far I thought Clifford would be prepared and authorized to go in speaking for President Carter and the new administration, and I said I [Page 498] did not know at this stage but assumed that he was coming primarily to consult with the authorities in the three countries concerned and to learn their views and report them back to the President. Caramanlis said he was prepared to present his views fully and completely frankly to Clifford.

3. Cyprus. I said that there was continued very deep concern in Washington with the Cyprus problem and I felt sure that Clifford would want to go into this matter very thoroughly. Caramanlis said that the Cyprus problem was of course quite important and he would be prepared to discuss it. However, he went on, it was not nearly as important as Greek-Turkish problems and the Aegean. The principal difference was that the problems in Cyprus had already been caused and the challenge now was basically to find a way to repair as much of the damage as possible and arrive at a generally agreeable settlement for the two communities to live together for the future. However, there was no danger of war over Cyprus. That watershed had been passed in the summer of 1974 and under his leadership the Greeks had made a national decision that they would not fight Turkey over Cyprus.

4. Greek-Turkish relations. However, the Aegean situation was different. The potential for war was still very much there, and the disastrous aftermath of Cyprus developments in the summer of 1974 would pale against the calamity for us all that would result from a Greek-Turkish war.

5. And such a conflict was possible, Caramanlis said, and he was going to tell Clifford so in no uncertain terms. He went on. Everyone must recognize that he (Caramanlis) alone and almost single-handedly, calmed the Greek nation and prevented them from going to war against Turkey at the time of the Sismik researches in the Aegean this past summer.3 However, he had paid a terrible price for this. He had “accepted” a humiliation from the Turks and the Greeks would never forgive him for this. His popularity in the country had declined and in the Greek armed forces questions were raised about whether or not he was cowardly or strong enough to lead Greece in the face of its many problems and enemies. He could never accept such a provocation or humiliation from Turkey again and the USG and Greece’s other allies must realize this.

5. [sic] The reason he was making such a point of this, Caramanlis said, was that he very much feared there would be other provocations and attempted humiliations by Turkey unless the USG and other helped to make it clear to Ankara that these would not be tolerated because the overriding interests of all of us would be too greatly threat [Page 499] ened. In response to my questioning and periodic comments, Caramanlis repeated his analysis, oft stated and reported in the past, of the resurgent nationalism and expansionist tendencies in Turkey which, most regrettably, were being fueled and fanned by leading Turkish political personalities. Moreover, he was now beginning to perceive Demirel’s strategy for dealing with the Cyprus problem and Greek-Turkish problems in the period between now and the Turkish elections. Demirel would appear to be forthcoming on Cyprus in order to improve Turkey’s international image, blunt foreign criticism, and facilitate congressional passage of the U.S.-Turkish DCA—thus restoring a full flow of military supplies to Turkey and strengthening Demirel’s position with the Turkish military. At the same time, Caramanlis said, he did not believe Demirel could afford to or would make any really significant concession on Cyprus.

6. As for the continental shelf and Aegean disputes, Demirel wanted a “big victory”. Caramanlis flustered and lost some of his coherence in his surge of temper and exasperation with the Turks as he discussed this point. He said that he had reached agreement with Demirel several times on how to handle the Aegean problems, going all the way back to their May 1975 meeting in Brussels up to the November 1976 Bern Agreement.4 However, Demirel continued to renege on these agreements and understandings. For example, a very useful and realistic procedure had been worked out and agreed in detail in Bern last November providing for the two governments to analyze and negotiate a settlement of the continental shelf dispute, providing for ultimate submission to the World Court—in accordance with customary international practices “by civilized nations” in resolving such disputes peaceably—of any points that could not be bilaterally agreed. The procedure also envisaged the passage of up to 18 months of time which would carry Turkey beyond its elections, which was what Demirel wanted as of last November. Moreover, such a procedure provided a highly desirable framework for the two governments ultimately to present the settlement to their nations, since no matter how it came out it would not be fully satisfactory in both countries.

7. But in London last week the Turkish delegation wanted to jettison the whole arrangement. They were under instructions to proceed immediately to a discussion of the substance of the problem and see if some division of the Aegean and its resources could be agreed. “Don’t propose 15 percent for Turkey and 85 percent for Greece” the Turkish representatives had said, “that would be ridiculous. Be realistic.” Caramanlis said he thought that Demirel wanted him to agree that Turkey could have “30 or 40 or 50 percent” of the Aegean, to obtain such a [Page 500] Greek concurrence fairly soon, and thus have his “big victory” to present to the Turkish electorate. Caramanlis said he would never play that game and added that he very much feared the Demirel government would be pushing the Sismik out into the Aegean again later this winter or in the spring in another show of aggressiveness and manhood. Thus, he explained his concerns and apprehensions, and he said he would go into them in as much detail as Clifford wanted.

8. Comment: There has been no discernible change in the substance of Caramanlis’ views over the recent past, and Mr. Clifford can expect to get the full force of them along the lines we have been reporting in recent months. Caramanlis is an exceptionally strong personality—forceful, authoritarian, autocratic, demanding, clever and critical. He is also capable of and with Mr. Clifford will almost certainly be very, very charming at times. However, he has a large amount of dammed-up resentment and bitterness based on his version of Washington policies and positions over the past two and a half years, and my recommendation will be that Clifford allow him to get this off his chest during their long, substantive meeting and not challenge him and argue with him about what happened in the past as I have so often had to do. In that way we will be able to put the past behind us and move to a realistic and coherent discussion of where we are right now—and where we go from here.5

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770049–1123. Confidential; Immediate; Exdis. Sent for information Priority to Ankara and Nicosia.
  2. The meeting between Clifford and Karamanlis took place on February 18. See footnote 5 below.
  3. See footnote 10, Document 8.
  4. For the Bern Agreement, see footnote 7, Document 91.
  5. Although no official memorandum of conversation of the February 18 meetingbetween Karamanlis and Clifford was found, Clifford described the meeting in his report to President Carter. See the second attachment to Document 8. A set of handwritten notes, most likely taken by Matthew Nimetz during the meeting, outline the main points of the conversation. (National Archives, RG 59, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Records of Counselor Nimetz, 1977–1980, Lot 81D85, Box 2, MemCons) In telegram 1622 from Athens, February 18, the Embassy reported on an evening courtesy call Clifford paid to Karamanlis upon his arrival the previous day. Karamanlis noted that Clifford’s mission signified the importance that Carter attached to the Greece-Cyprus-Turkey dispute, and he told Clifford “he had to agree with Dr. Kissinger’s own admission that his biggest mistake had been handling of Cyprus crisis.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770058–1198)