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

700. Subject: Draft Report on the Secretary’s Meetings With Prime Minister Caramanlis, January 21.

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1. This is the draft report on the Secretary’s discussions with Prime Minister Caramanlis on January 21. It has not been cleared by the Secretary or any member of his party. The Secretary, accompanied by Charge Mills, Messrs. Saunders and Carter, and Political Counselor Barbis (notetaker) met for two and a quarter hours with Prime Minister Caramanlis at his office. Also present on the Greek side were Foreign Minister Papaligouras; Byron Theodoropoulos, the MFA’s Secretary General; John Tzounis, Director General for Political Affairs (notetaker); and Petros Molyviatis, Director of the Prime Minister’s Political Office who acted as interpreter. Before the meeting with the Prime Minister the Secretary made a courtesy call on President Tsatsos accompanied by the Charge. Certain matters were also discussed later that evening at a small dinner hosted by the Prime Minister, which lasted about two hours, at which the Foreign Minister, Ambassador Molyviatis, Defense Minister Averoff, the Charge and Messrs. Saunders and Barbis were also present.

2. Begin summary. During extensive discussions with Secretary Vance January 21, Prime Minister Caramanlis made a detailed presentation covering the whole range of bilateral U.S.-Greek relations and issues of common concern in the Eastern Mediterranean. Caramanlis spoke along familiar lines about Cyprus, Greece’s withdrawal from NATO’s integrated command structure and the current state of its relations with the Alliance, the U.S.-Greek DCA, Greek-Turkish relations, and Greece’s entry into the European Community. He said nothing startlingly new, but his presentation on Greece’s relations with NATO and its attitude towards the DCA was perhaps the clearest exposition yet of the Greek position. Caramanlis asked for U.S. assistance in expediting conclusion of negotiations with NATO for an interim relationship which was a necessary framework for U.S. bases in Greece and would serve as a bridge for Greece’s eventual full return. Caramanlis was skeptical about Ecevit’s proposal for a summit meeting and argued that there should first be adequate preparations to ensure the possibility of success.2 At the end of the meeting the Secretary raised the question of a new Ambassador to Greece (septel) and, at the Prime [Page 530] Minister’s request, the Secretary gave a brief report on the status of Middle East negotiations.3 End summary.

3. Prime Minister Caramanlis was relaxed and outgoing during all these encounters and obviously enjoyed the opportunity to meet with the Secretary and discuss matters of common interest with him. He was confident, articulate and gave the impression of a leader in full command. After thanking the Secretary for accepting his invitation to stop in Athens, the Prime Minister made a general presentation of his views as follow:

4. U.S.-Greek relations. The Prime Minister said he welcomed these discussions because they gave him an opportunity to clarify Greek positions and, perhaps, to clear up misunderstandings that may have arisen in the past between the two governments. Relations, he said, were basically good despite the attacks and criticism from the left. There was no hostility on the part of the Greek people toward the U.S. but a certain “bitterness” remained because the Greek people felt they had been “betrayed” by a close friend and ally as a result of U.S. policies with respect to the Junta and especially because of events in Cyprus in 1974. Nevertheless, he concluded, relations were good and actually better than they appeared to be, although there was room for further improvement.

5. Cyprus. Cyprus was at the heart of all Greece’s problems, the Prime Minister asserted. He had been dealing with it for 24 years and, although he thought it had been settled on a reasonable basis some 20 years ago, in 1974 when he returned to Greece from exile he found the problem facing him again. Caramanlis admitted, as he has on previous occasions, that the July 15 Junta coup was stupid and gave the Turks a pretext to mount an invasion. However after normalcy had been restored (i.e., Clerides became acting President in Cyprus and Caramanlis Prime Minister in Greece), instead of withdrawing, the Turks mounted a second invasion during the Geneva Conference. Although Greece could have asked for the return to the status quo ante, it agreed to negotiate a new status on the island with the Turks. Since then there has been nothing but a “dialogue of the deaf”. The Turks are now saying they will be making concrete proposals. Caramanlis said he hoped this time they would be sincere, but on the basis of past experience he could not be optimistic. The GOG position was clear support for the intercommunal talks under the aegis of the UN Secretary General. Greece had already made important concessions in accepting a bizonal, federal solution but still did not know exactly what the Turks were seeking.

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6. The Secretary said that in the discussions in Ankara Ecevit had indicated he had reached agreement with Denktash who would put proposals on the table with respect to the territorial and constitutional questions.4 Although Ecevit did not go into any detail regarding these proposals, he supported the principle of a federal system and was opposed to any settlement that could lead to partition. The Secretary indicated he was only reporting what Ecevit said, namely that he wanted a final solution on Cyprus and that it was long overdue to remove this “thorn” from relations with Greece. Caramanlis reiterated his skepticism, which he said was based on his long experience in dealing with the Turks on this issue. Moreover, recent statements by Ecevit and Denktash appeared to contradict Ecevit’s assurances of serious intentions.5

7. NATO. Caramanlis explained that the crisis in Greece’s relations with NATO was also an outgrowth of the Cyprus crisis. Greece supported NATO but had faced a choice in August 1974 of either going to war (as many in Greece demanded) or taking some action to defuse the situation. He had chosen the latter, and the minimum he could do was withdraw from the integrated military structure. There were strong popular feelings in Greece against NATO because one of its members had committed aggression against Cyprus and the Alliance did not react. If a solution could be found to the Cyprus problem, Greece would return to NATO immediately. However, since we did not know when this would happen, the Prime Minister said, and since Greece did not want to cut off all military ties, it had begun negotiations with NATO for a special relationship as a bridge for Greece’s eventual full return to the Alliance. Greece made specific proposals to this effect a year ago, but there has been no NATO response. Moreover, the recent announcement of a change in the status of NATO Headquarters in Izmir was a mistake because it was made at an inappropriate moment—that is, before Greece’s relations with the Alliance had been clarified.6 It had thus created new problems. Caramanlis went on to say he would like to see the negotiations speeded up to reach agreement by this summer, since matters can only become more difficult with the passage of time. Although he would not want to create “impressions”, he said Greece may be lost to NATO if some arrangement is not made soon. With the establishment of this special relationship Greece would also request the establishment of headquarters in Greece similar to [Page 532] those being created in Izmir. (Ambassador Tzounis later clarified to the notetaker that what the Greeks have in mind is for the establishment of the NATO headquarters to be included in the special relationship package.) In response to the Prime Minister’s request for help in expediting these negotiations, the Secretary said he would look into the matter and get back in touch with Foreign Minister Papaligouras about it.

8. Bases. Caramanlis reviewed the origins and history of negotiations for the U.S.-Greek DCA. Greece’s objective had been to streamline our security arrangements and adjust the status of U.S. facilities here to present-day conditions.7 Greece wants to keep the U.S. bases here. However, the signing of the U.S.-Turkish DCA in March 1976 created a serious problem for Greece because the $1 billion aid commitment to Turkey threatened to upset the relative military balance between the two countries. This made it necessary for Greece to seek a similar aid provision in its agreement. Caramanlis argued that inclusion of aid in these agreements is a mistake and said he would be happy if aid were dropped from both agreements, in which case he would sign the DCA without asking for anything in return. Greece had shown its good faith by initialing the agreement; however, since this DCA was inevitably connected with the U.S.-Turkish DCA (since it makes that one easier) and with the question of Greece’s status in NATO, it was not possible to finalize the agreement yet in the absence of a reestablished military relationship with NATO. To provide the essential framework, it would be difficult for the bases to function legitimately in a NATO context. This was an additional reason for asking the U.S. to help in connection with the NATO negotiations.

9. The Secretary pointed out that it would not be possible in the case of the Greek and Turkish DCA’s (or the agreement with the Philippines) to separate out economic aspects because of the negotiating background. It is entirely possible that whether the administration raises the question of the Turkish DCA or not, it will be raised by Congress in the next few months. He understood the Republican Party had already decided to raise the issue in Congress. The Secretary added that the administration had endorsed the Turkish DCA in principle, indicating the ultimate decision would depend on developments in the Eastern Mediterannean, which is a way of saying Cyprus.

10. The Prime Minister pointed out that if Congress should approve the Turkish DCA without progress on Cyprus, the result would [Page 533] be a deterioration in the situation which would make solution of problems in the area impossible. Although he made clear he considers this to be an internal U.S. matter and did not want to interfere, he felt he should draw our attention to the implications of such a development, since the decision would affect Greece. Caramanlis said he wanted to resolve these issues in a way that would help restore the integrity of the Alliance, but that he too had to be helped in this respect by Turkey and the Alliance. The fact that he continued to follow a pro-West policy while all these issues were still unresolved had been costly to him in the recent elections. He reiterated that Greece’s allies and especially Turkey should take advantage of his presence as leader of the Greek Government to solve these problems because he has both the courage and ability to settle them. If they are not settled while he is in power, the possibility of an adventure or eventually even war could not be excluded.

11. Aegean. Caramanlis said the Aegean dispute, too, had been created by the Turks who were seeking to change a situation based on international treaties and agreements. He reviewed in familiar terms the Greek position with respect to the continental shelf and Aegean airspace disputes. His basic point was that the Turks always backed away from agreements they had reached, thus making progress impossible. To be constructive he had recently proposed a three-point negotiating procedure for reaching a peaceful settlement:

(A) Start a serious and consistent dialogue based on international law and practice using precedents of other countries with similar disputes, including the U.S. and Canada;

(B) During that dialogue both sides should refrain from any provocative actions which could upset the negotiations; and

(C) Agree that any problems not solved within a certain time through these negotiations should be referred to the International Court of Justice.

Since this is a fair procedure followed by many countries with similar disputes, Turkish refusal to accept it leads to a presumption of bad faith. There is a real risk of war should either side try to impose its will unilaterally.

12. Caramanlis then reviewed the Sismik operations of 1976 and noted he had been able to avert a confrontation by taking the issue to the UN Security Council.8 He then described how Turkish intransigence and backtracking had also made agreement on the Aegean airspace issue impossible. The GOT has not yet responded to his three-point plan, although it accepted a Greek proposal to resume continental shelf talks February 12.

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13. Caramanlis noted that Turkey had recently raised the question of the Turkish minority in Western Thrace as an issue. He cited statistics comparing the Greek population in Turkey and the Turkish population in Greece at the time the Lausanne Treaty was signed with present figures to show that there has been a dramatic reduction in the size of the Greek population in Turkey but a significant increase in the Turkish population in Greece. He presented this as evidence that the Turks are trying to create another artificial dispute.

14. Ecevit. Until now, Caramanlis said, there has been no serious Turkish interlocutor with whom he could negotiate the various disputes. Ecevit who is now in charge is the one who created all of them. In 1974 Ecevit acted chauvinistically; it is not yet clear how he will act now. Last June, however, just before leaving his brief term as Prime Minister, he had instructed Denktash to occupy Varosha, which does not give much encouragement regarding his future policy. Caramanlis thought Ecevit was trying to “create impressions” in proposing a summit meeting with him. He does not know what Ecevit has in mind with respect to either procedure or substance. To meet without adequate preparations and then find out that it is not possible to agree on how the two countries can negotiate their differences would be dangerous. (Later that evening at dinner Caramanlis was even more skeptical about Ecevit’s intentions and reiterated the need for adequate preparations before agreeing to a summit.)

15. The Secretary agreed on the need for preparation, pointing out that Ecevit had told him he genuinely wants a settlement on Cyprus but had not said anything to him on the Aegean. He suggested that perhaps it would be worthwhile to try to find out on a lower level what Ecevit has in mind on the Aegean. Caramanlis said he was not asking Greece’s friends to take a position on the Aegean; all he wants is that they ask the Turks to accept his procedural proposals as a first step towards meaningful negotiations. The Secretary volunteered that perhaps the U.S., without intervening, could be helpful in this area as well.

16. European Community. During the conversation at dinner Caramanlis stated that his main reason for taking Greece into the EC was political—to strengthen and protect Greek democracy. He had started the process with the Association Agreement in 1962 and wanted to see it completed, with Greece a full member, before he ends his political career.9 The purpose of his trip to European capitals next week is to try to [Page 535] speed up the negotiating process. The Secretary indicated U.S. support for Greek membership and for European unity.

17. Middle East and Horn of Africa. During the afternoon meeting, at the Prime Minister’s request the Secretary reviewed recent developments in the Middle East situation, including the state of play following his visit there. At the dinner the Secretary brought up our concern over the developing situation in the Horn of Africa. Caramanlis said he was concerned about all of Africa.

18. Suggested action. After the Secretary’s approval or amendments, the Department may wish to consider repeating this report to Embassy Ankara. We also suggest sections in this report concerning NATO and the DCA be repeated to USNATO and USNMR SHAPE for General Haig. For our part, we would appreciate seeing reports on the Secretary’s discussions in Ankara.

19. We will be pouching the verbatim draft memorandum of conversation to S/S, Peter Tarnoff.

  1. Source: Department of State, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Cyrus R. Vance, Secretary of State—1977–1980, Lot 84D241, Box 9, Vance Nodis MemCons, 1978. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. No final version of this report or a memorandum of conversation was found.
  2. The Embassy reported in telegram 132, January 5, that in the wake of the collapse of the Demirel government, Ecevit had sent an “exploratory message” to Greek officials regarding a meeting with Karamanlis. The Embassy went on to note that Ecevit had also called for a meeting with Karamanlis following the elections in June 1977. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780009–1147) In telegram 613 from Athens, January 20, the Embassy quoted a spokesman of the Greek Government who said of the possibility of meeting Ecevit that “Mr. Caramanlis has no objection to meeting anyone, anywhere. However, a summit meeting requires a minimum of preparation.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780031–0197)
  3. The septel is likely telegram 694 from Athens, January 23. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, N780002–0030)
  4. See Document 107.
  5. The statements were reported in Milton R. Benjamin, “Greece, Turkey Cool to Prospect of Vance Mediation on Cyprus,” The Washington Post, January 18, 1978, p. A16. Benjamin reported that Ecevit had said the previous day that the purpose of Vance’s visit was to discuss U.S.-Turkish issues—not Cyprus.
  6. See footnote 4, Document 171.
  7. As a result of the Cyprus crisis in 1974, Greece’s subsequent withdrawal from NATO’s military structure, and the U.S. moves toward negotiating a Defense Cooperation Agreement with Turkey, the Government of Greece threw into question the future viability of U.S. military installations in Greece. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XXX, Greece; Cyprus; Turkey, 1973–1976, Documents 35, 36, 40, 47, 48, and 60.
  8. See Yearbook of the United Nations, 1976, pp. 320–322.
  9. The August 24, 1962, note by the EEC Council on the Association Agreement between the EEC and Greece is available in Western European Union Assembly—General Affairs Committee: A Retrospective View of the Political Year in Europe 1962, March 1963, pp. 63–64.