179. Letter From Greek Prime Minister Karamanlis to President Carter 1

Dear Mr. President:

I have had the opportunity on many occasions to draw the attention of your government on the consequences which the lifting of the embargo might entail. I persist in believing that while the embargo constitutes a domestic affair of the United States, its lifting nevertheless, will not only make the solution of the Cyprus problem more difficult, but will also dangerously complicate Greek-Turkish differences in the Aegean. For Turkey will become more intransigent, especially if, through the lifting of the embargo, the present balance of the military strength between the two countries were to be altered to the detriment of Greece. At the same time the lifting of the embargo will cause strong bitterness in the public opinion of my country and will adversely affect the development of Greek-American relations.

For all these reasons, I believe that it is imperative to maintain the embargo, in order to avoid a further worsening of the present situation.

Should, however, in spite of the above the lifting of the embargo be decided, it could be possible to limit the aforementioned dangers, if Congress were to provide certain assurances for the future.

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These assurances should, in my view, cover the following points:2

1. Attaining a just solution of the Cyprus problem shall remain a main concern of the United States. The President and the Congress of the United States shall continuously review the progress towards the achievement of such a solution and shall determine accordingly the United States policy and the granting of economic and military assistance to Turkey.

2. Military assistance to Greece and Turkey shall be given solely for defensive purposes and shall be designed in such a way as to insure the preservation of the present balance of military strength between the two countries.

3. The United States shall actively support the resolution of differences regarding the Aegean through internationally established peace-ful procedures, shall encourage the parties to avoid provocative actions and shall strongly and effectively oppose any attempt to resolve such disputes through force or threat of force.3

It should be noted that the above assurances have repeatedly been given to Greece from the American side. Thus these assurances are partly contained in the letter of the then United States Secretary of State Mr. Kissinger to the then Foreign Minister of Greece Mr. Bitsios of April 10, 1976; in the statement of the United States Secretary Mr. Vance in the International Relations Committee of the United States Congress on April 6, 1978; in the statement of the United States Under-Secretary of State Mr. Christopher in the Foreign Relations Committee of the United States Senate on May 2, 1978 and were mentioned during the discussion I had with you in the White House on May 31, 1978.4

Moreover, all these assurances, and in particular the issue of the preservation of the present balance of military strength between Greece [Page 553]and Turkey, to which my Government attaches particular importance are covered in the resolution of the United States Senate of July 25, 1978, concerning the embargo.5

I am certain that you will appreciate these positions and that you will prevent developments or decisions which may place my country before critical dilemmas.

Please accept, Mr. President, the assurances of my highest consideration and my personal best wishes.

Constantine Karamanlis6
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of the Office of the Deputy Secretary Warren Christopher, 1977–1980, Lot 81D113, Box 9, Memoranda to the White House—1978. No classification marking. A typed notation at the top of the page reads: “(Typed from Telex).”
  2. In an August 1 covering memorandum to Carter, Christopher noted: “The assurances sought in the Karamanlis letter are already contained in the Byrd amendment which passed in the Senate. Although the assurances are contained in part in the Hamilton amendment in the House, it is probably too late to have them fully incorporated into the amendment on which the House acts today. However, we will try. There is also the possibility that they could be in the House-Senate Conference if we prevail in the House.” (Ibid.) See Document 121.
  3. In telegram 6333 from Athens, July 25, the Embassy anticipated the assurances sought by Karamanlis and suggested a Presidential statement accompanying the lifting of the arms embargo. In this suggested statement, Carter would declare his ongoing interest in resolving the Cyprus dispute and would reiterate U.S. opposition to the use of force in the Eastern Mediterranean. The telegram is in the National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780304–1125.
  4. See Document 175. For the letters exchanged by Kissinger and Bitsios, see footnote 5, Document 107. For Secretary Vance’s April 6 testimony to the House International Relations Committee, see footnote 6, Document 58. Christopher, Harold Brown, and Clifford testified at Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings on aid to Greece and Turkey on May 2.
  5. See Document 121. The Byrd amendment also called for an additional $35 million in aid to Greece.
  6. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.