172. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • The Secretary’s Meeting with Greek Foreign Minister Papaligouras


  • Greece

    • Foreign Minister Panayotis A. Papaligouras
    • Ambassador Byron Theodoropolous, Secretary General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
    • J. Tzounis, Director General for Political Affairs, MFA
    • Eustace Lagakos, Greek Perm Rep to NATO
  • United States

    • Secretary Vance
    • Under Secretary Habib
    • Assistant Secretary Vest, EUR
    • Ambassador W. Tapley Bennett, Jr., U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO
    • Mr. Raymond C. Ewing, EUR/SE, Deputy Director
[Page 525]

After the press had been escorted from the room, Foreign Minister Papaligouras said he wished to bring to the Secretary’s attention the extremely serious matter of the Defense Planning Committee communique which had been adopted on December 7.2 It had already had a “seismic” effect in Greece because of its pro-Turkish content. Papaligouras said that Prime Minister Karamanlis did not feel that what was said in the communique was fair or justified. It came at a particularly bad time since the new cabinet next week would face a vote of confidence and present its program to Parliament and thus it could have an effect on Greek domestic politics. Karamanlis felt that the results of the November 20 election were in part attributable to anti-West and anti-US feelings in Greece. Despite this Karamanlis still wanted to return Greece as soon as possible to military participation in NATO.

Papaligouras recalled that Greece had entered into negotiations for a Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA) with the US to counter-balance the DCA concluded with Turkey. He noted that Greece would be better off if neither agreement were implemented and that pending resolution of the Cyprus question he hoped the US would not proceed with the Turkish DCA.

Papaligouras said he agreed with remarks by Turkish Foreign Minister Caglayangil earlier in the day that both Greece and Turkey have responsibilities to help resolve the problems of the area but he felt strongly that Turkey could do more with the Turkish Cypriots than could Greece with the Greek Cypriot community. This was true because Turkey is physically on Cyprus and exercises power over the Turkish Cypriot representatives who were only a kind of “puppet”.

Papaligouras said that Karamanlis had told him that if the Cyprus problem were not solved, he might ultimately feel obliged to take the question of Greece’s NATO relationship to a plebiscite. If he did so, he was afraid at this point he would lose unless matters improve. Papaligouras also noted that Greece had submitted two proposals to NATO in September 1976 (sic) and January 1977 but had received no response.

Returning to the Cyprus question, Papaligouras said that if they are not directly involved, both Greece and Turkey would be in a position to exercise more influence; on the other hand if they were directly [Page 526] involved, the Aegean and Cyprus problems, while perhaps linked and inter-related, would become confused and more difficult to resolve. It was therefore important to have Cyprus precede settlement of the Aegean. The Turks have direct influence on Cyprus while the Greeks did not. The two problems, if they were mixed up, could have a bad effect on efforts to solve the Cyprus problem as well as the Aegean.

Papaligouras repeated that an extremely critical situation existed in Greece and asked for the Secretary’s assistance with regard to the NAC communique. He urged that the Secretary support these efforts with the Turkish Foreign Minister. The Greek Foreign Minister hoped that the communique could use language similar to the December 1976 language on the two DCAs. The Secretary said he had not yet had an opportunity to read the DPC or the draft NAC communique and thus would have to look into the matter before he could respond to Papaligouras’ request.3

With regard to Cyprus, the Secretary said Caglayangil’s position was that Turkish participation would allow more pressure to be brought on Denktash who was not as flexible as a Turkish representative would be.

Papaligouras said he did not agree. The Greek Government recognized the Government of Cyprus and was not able to influence the Greek Cypriot community. He repeated that the Aegean and other Greek/Turkish differences should not be mixed with Cyprus.

Papaligouras said that Turkey had done its utmost to make difficulties for Greece’s ability to function as an ally. He cited the examples of the Long Term Defense Program, the naval command in the Mediterranean, and the recent Display Determination exercise.

Returning to Cyprus, Papaligouras said that if the Turks would come to the table with a logical territorial proposal, then a settlement could quickly be reached under the auspices of the UN Secretary General.

In response to the Secretary’s question, Theodoropoulos said that Caglayangil seemed to be suggesting that Greece should also be involved in the Cyprus problem, but Greece could not be part of any quadripartite meeting on Cyprus since that would tend to link in the minds of the negotiators the Aegean and Cyprus questions.

[Page 527]

The Secretary said he assumed that Greece wanted to see the Cyprus problem settled. Papaligouras agreed. The Secretary said that Turkey says that is also its objective. Assuming that is in fact their desire, isn’t there a way within the UN framework to resolve the matter?

The Secretary suggested that an effort be made to deal with the communique problem so as to avoid making it a larger problem. He also hoped that the debate during the remainder of the NAC would not heighten tensions between Greece and Turkey. Papaligouras said that Luns had pressed for moderation and he intended to not be immoderate.

Papaligouras suggested that the serious questions of interest to Greece and the US be put aside until after Parliament’s Christmas recess and then an effort be made to normalize matters. But Greece essentially felt that Turkey was responsible for the current difficulties.

The Secretary asked about the Government of Greece’s intentions regarding the U.S.-Greek DCA. Papaligouras said they wanted to discuss the DCA calmly, but first look for proof that Turkey had moved toward a Cyprus solution. Secretary Vance asked again whether the Greek Government wanted to go ahead with the DCA or not. Papaligouras responded by asking what the United States planned to do with the Turkish DCA.

The Secretary said the Agreement had been before Congress since January, the Administration had endorsed it in principle, but Congress had not yet been asked to take action. He asked again whether the Greek Government was prepared to sign the DCA or not.

Papaligouras said he had not expected the question to be put so bluntly. The Secretary assured him he did not need an immediate answer. Papaligouras said he thought it best calmly to discuss the matter later with the Secretary or the new American Ambassador in Athens in an effort to find solutions, but he was not prepared to give an answer at this time.

The Secretary said he understood that the Greek Government was not in a position to take up the question of the Greek DCA at a time when an important vote was about to be taken in Parliament.

Papaligouras said there were also NATO problems, including the absence of a reply to the two Greek proposals. Theodoropoulos pointed out that the Greek-US DCA was negotiated in the framework of NATO and therefore a clarification of Greece’s positions within the Alliance should coincide with any action on the DCA. Turkey had sought to push Greece to the periphery of the Alliance. He pointed out that all existing US facilities in Greece were fully available to the US and that the Greek Government had never tried to blackmail the US. The Greek Government had therefore been surprised by the apparent decision of the US Government to go ahead with both DCAs.

[Page 528]

The Secretary said that we wanted to go ahead with both DCAs, but no final decision had yet been taken. Tzounis referred to a statement on December 7 by the State Department spokesman that the Turkish DCA should be considered on its own merits.4

After reading the statement (State 292218) the Secretary said that we have endorsed but never directly linked in public statements the Turkish DCA to Cyprus.5 The statement did not represent a new position. Tzounis said that the spokesman had gone further in a subsequent exchange with reporters. The Secretary said he would like to examine the transcript carefully himself.

Papaligouras said he thought that until now the DCA had always been linked with Cyprus. The Secretary said that we had never said there was direct linkage and we had always used very carefully formulated language.

The conversation closed with the Secretary promising to see what would be possible with regard to the communique. He made no promises as to language. Papaligouras repeated that the Greeks were satisfied with last year’s language, although they did not feel the two DCAs needed to even be mentioned since they had not been discussed at the NAC meeting.

  1. Source: Department of State, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Cyrus R. Vance, Secretary of State—1977–1980, Lot 84D241, Box 10, unlabeled folder. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Ewing (EUR/SE) on December 12; approved by Anderson (S/S) on December 27. The meeting took place in the U.S. Mission to NATO. Vance and Papaligouras were in Brussels for the biannual NATO Ministerial meeting December 8–9.
  2. See footnote 3, Document 103. The Turkish representatives to the Committee proposed a number of conditions to govern the new association of Greece to the NATO military command structure. Turkey was particularly concerned that Greek reintegration would make Turkish military information available to Greek authorities. (Telegram 12730 from USNATO, December 15; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770467–0840) The December 7 DPC communiqué noted Turkey’s need to modernize its forces and the responsibility of NATO members to provide assistance for the modernization. The allies also “confirmed their view of the importance of the contribution to the solidarity and vital security of the entire Alliance of the early implementation of defence co-operative agreements relating to the South-Eastern flank.”
  3. The issue in contention was that Greece anticipated that Turkish officials would attempt to insert language in the draft communiqué of the North Atlantic Council calling for the U.S. arms embargo against Turkey to be lifted. The final communiqué contains no such language. The Embassy reported this information in telegram 11235 from Athens, December 12. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770462–0384) The communiqué is printed in the Department of State Bulletin, January 1978, pp. 30–31.
  4. Not further identified.
  5. In telegram 292218 to USNATO, November 17, the Department transmitted press guidance regarding an alleged U.S.-Turkish deal on Cyprus. The allegation was that the United States was prepared to lift the arms embargo in exchange for Turkish concessions in the Cyprus dispute. The press guidance explicitly de-linked the embargo from Cyprus. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770455–0465)