177. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Greece1

144648. Subject: Secretary’s Meeting With Greek Prime Minister Karamanlis, New York, June 3, 1978.

1. Summary: Secretary met with Greek Prime Minister Karamanlis at latter’s request at Hotel Carlyle in New York Saturday, June 3. Meeting, which lasted almost one hour, covered following topics; Greece/NATO relations; GOG attitude toward administration proposal to repeal Turkish arms embargo; Greece/Turkish relations; and Cyprus. Karamanlis did most of the talking; he seemed more relaxed and at ease than during his talks earlier in week in Washington. Also present were Foreign Minister Rallis; Ambassadors Alexandrakis and Papoulias; and Molyviatis, Director General, Prime Minister’s Political Office, who acted as interpreter. Secretary was accompanied by Counselor Nimetz and EUR/SE Director Ewing. End summary.

2. Secretary said he had been sorry to miss Prime Minister’s May 31 meeting with President, but it was necessary that he meet in New York with Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko. Karamanlis said his meeting with President had been “very good”. Understanding had been shown by both sides, a good atmosphere had prevailed, and he had appreciated the opportunity to discuss all questions of current interest.2 He then spoke at length on the following topics.

3. Greece/NATO relations. Karamanlis said he wanted to draw Secretary’s particular attention to Turkish intentions with regard to Greece/NATO relations. He recalled conversation with Secretary in Athens in January in which he had described his intention to build a link or bridge to eventual full return to full NATO participation.3 Karamanlis said he was concerned that if Turks “continue to block” current negotiations, there would be a problem both for Greece and the Alliance which in his view would also harm Turkey’s interests. The Greek position was that difficult political issues should be left aside to resolve later; it would not be possible to do so in the context of the Greek/NATO discussions. The Prime Minister asked the Secretary to do what [Page 547] ever he could to convince the Turks not to create obstacles for a special relationship in NATO for Greece.

4. Karamanlis recalled that Generals Haig and Davos had agreed on general lines of an approach, but the Turks were creating difficulties.4 He said that he sincerely wanted to re-link Greece to NATO and wanted to make the next step to be toward full re-integration and not away from NATO, a situation which would be to the detriment of NATO, Greece and Turkey. The only specific problem that Karamanlis cited concerned Aegean air space, a matter which had been left unsolved within the Alliance even prior to 1974 and should not be decided in a NATO context. Karamanlis claimed that the Turkish position was to settle relevant outstanding issues first before the special relationship status was clarified, but he said he could not do this without being subjected to even more opposition in Greece. Karamanlis said that involved also was the issue of U.S. bases in Greece which were connected with Greece’s role in NATO.

5. Karamanlis said that while it was of no direct interest to the U.S., he was also concerned by recent problems created by Turkey for Greece in its negotiations with the EC. He cited a recent press conference statement by Ecevit in Brussels.5 Karamanlis said he had asked Ecevit to try to hold down the number of public statements he made. Turkish efforts to block Greece in the EC or NATO or elsewhere were not conducive to improved bilateral relations.

6. Greece/Turkey relations. Karamanlis recalled his proposed procedure for addressing Aegean questions of dialogue followed by international arbitration or resort to the ICJ.6 He acknowledged that these questions also were not of direct interest to the U.S. but he hoped that the Secretary would follow the matter, review the Greek proposal, and at some point mention to the GOT that adoption of such a procedural proposal was necessary in order to begin to settle the Aegean issues.

7. Embargo. Karamanlis expressed the hope that the administration would not characterize the GOG position on the Turkish embargo issue as mild or indifferent. He had sought to be moderate and respon [Page 548] sible and for such a posture he had been criticized by Cypriots and by his opposition in Greece.

8. In response to above points, the Secretary said he very much understood the importance of a restored Greek-NATO relationship. Following his January visit, the U.S. had been helpful in facilitating steps toward re-integration; Karamanlis confirmed this was the case. The Secretary said he was not informed on specific aspects of the military-technical talks being conducted by General Haig and he was not aware that Turkey was “blocking” efforts to reach agreement. We thought Greek return to NATO was important and we would continue to do what we could to facilitate the process.

9. The Secretary said that in any future statements or congressional testimony, we would take care not to portray Karamanlis’ attitude as one of indifference or only mild concern on the possible effects of lifting of the embargo.

10. Karamanlis said he had not wanted to become involved in the embargo question while in the U.S. and would have preferred not to appear before the HIRC on June 2, but Chairman Zablocki was anxious to hear his views. He was concerned that solving one problem (the embargo) would only create new problems. He thought the key to working out the Eastern Mediterranean problems was related to efforts to find a Cyprus solution, noting that such a settlement would help NATO and the U.S., and allow Greece to return to the Alliance. He would have expected a more forthcoming Turkish position on Cyprus which would have helped resolve these problems.

11. In response to the Secretary’s question about the May 29 Karamanlis meeting with Ecevit, the Prime Minister said that it had been a rather formal meeting and had not gotten very far into substance.7 He had initiated the meeting and was pleased that the dialogue would continue between Greece and Turkey when the two MFA Secretaries General met July 4 to review the Montreux discussion and their respective positions. He again expressed the hope that GOT would accept his procedural proposal. The Secretary said he would at an appropriate time mention to the Turks our hope that progress could be made in resolving Turkish-Greek bilateral problems. He agreed that there was a unique opportunity since both Ecevit and Karamanlis had the political desire to move forward in improving relations between Greece and Turkey. Karamanlis said that he was not concerned about the result of the ICJ or arbitration procedure, but needed to have political cover for accepting a settlement. He said that principle was involved more than specific substance. “There is no oil where we are squabbling”.

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12. The Secretary said he had met earlier in the morning with Kyprianou, and had expressed the U.S. hope that intercommunal talks could be resumed.8 Kyprianou had explained his problems with that. The Secretary said that we were trying to do what we could to facilitate some kind of a meeting where both Kyprianou and Ecevit could be present, but we were doubtful that anything could be worked out agreeable to both. SecGen Waldheim had separately suggested a June 4 social gathering which we hoped Kyprianou would carefully consider. Karamanlis said that such a gathering could be useful and that he would talk with Kyprianou about it, although he stressed that Greece could not assume responsibility for the Cyprus negotiations. The GOG could, however, exercise influence on the substance of the Cyprus issues if the Turkish side presented proposals which would allow meaningful negotiations. This was not the case at present. The Secretary agreed that there must be changes in the Turkish negotiating proposals, but said we were certain that the Turks were prepared to be flexible and that Ecevit wanted to solve the problem.

13. In closing the meeting, the Secretary said he would follow up on the matters discussed. He stressed again that the administration had no intention of solving its Turkish problem at the expense of Greece.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780238–0762. Confidential; Immediate; Exdis. Drafted by Ewing; cleared by Vest and Richard Castrodale (S/S); approved by Nimetz. Sent for information to Nicosia, Ankara, USUN, London, Brussels, USNATO, and USNMR SHAPE.
  2. See Document 175.
  3. See Document 173.
  4. Reference is to the so-called Haig-Davos Agreements or Arrangements of May 1978, which permitted Greek reintegration into the NATO military command structure. All the NATO members except Turkey approved the agreement. See also Document 184.
  5. In telegram 10311 from Brussels, May 26, the Embassy reported on Ecevit’s press conference on May 25. Regarding Greek entry to the European Community, the telegram quoted Ecevit as saying that “Turkey was worried at the possibility of the EC’s becoming involved in Greek-Turkish problems at Greece’s initiative. Such an eventuality, he continued, could lead to increased tension, particularly if Greece becomes a member before majority voting is adopted by the EC Council.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780223–0583)
  6. See footnote 5, Document 175.
  7. Ecevit and Karamanlis met at Blair House in Washington.
  8. See Document 55.