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

248371. Military addressees handle as Specat Exclusive. Subject: Secretary Vance’s Meeting With Greek Foreign Minister Rallis, New York, Sept 27.

Summary: Secretary Vance met with Greek Foreign Minister Rallis at UN Plaza Hotel New York Sept 27 for approximately 30 minutes. Subjects discussed included Greek reintegration into NATO, Greek Turkish relations, Deputy Secretary’s upcoming visit to Athens, and Cyprus. Accompanying Rallis were Greek Ambassador to U.S. Alexandrakis, MFA Director General Tzounis and Greek UN Representative Papoulias. Also present were Counselor Nimetz, Assistant Secretary Vest, and EUR/SE Director Ewing. Nimetz, Vest and Ewing also met for approximately 90 minutes afternoon Sept 27 with Tzounis and Alexandrakis (septel).2 End summary.

1. In opening conversation, Secretary Vance asked what US could do beyond what had been done already to facilitate Greek reintegration into NATO military structure.

2. Foreign Minister Rallis noted that President Carter on Sept 26 had made declaration relating to good faith of Turkish Government.3 Rallis expressed doubt that progress had been made with regard to Cyprus but in terms of Greek Turkish relations GOG had recently had two “sad experiences”: a) recent discussions on airspace, and b) Greek desire for special link to NATO. With regard to airspace GOG had made many concessions but GOT continued to insist that line be drawn in middle of Aegean and that GOG give up claim to ten-mile airspace around islands. GOG could not accept situation where airspace of the islands off Asia Minor was not under Greek control. Rallis said he had [Page 556] told Elekdag personally that GOT could reserve its position on this for consideration later.

3. With regard to Greek NATO relationship, GOG had been told that Turkish military rep in Brussels had informed his colleagues in Brussels that Turkey refused to accept that airspace above Greek islands should be under Greek control. Rallis said he feared approval of assessment by General Haig will be delayed because of the Turkish attitude. Karamanlis wanted to see Greece fully back into NATO but the GOG could not accept a situation which was indefinitely suspended. If the Turks insist on positions which were unacceptable to the GOG, at some point the Karamanlis government would be obliged to withdraw its request. The GOG had expected a decision in NATO in September on General Haig’s assessment, which was completely acceptable to the GOG, but this process had not gotten started because of the Turkish attitude.

4. The Secretary said he would take note of this situation and would be interested in views of General Haig on how the process could be accelerated. Rallis said he very much appreciated what General Haig had done.

5. The Secretary recalled that he had talked earlier in the day with Turkish Foreign Minister Okcun.4 He had the impression that on the Aegean the two sides were talking past each other. The Turks claimed that the lack of Greek desire to resolve issues had prevented progress at the talks in Athens last week on Aegean issues. Rallis then described the airspace concessions which the Greeks had made relating to notification procedures, reducing the size of the Limnos TMA area, and modifying an air corridor near the Turkish coast. Agreement had been reached on many points but the Turks had insisted on the reduction of the ten nautical mile airspace around the islands. Rallis again said that this issue could be discussed later after all else had been solved but it could not be solved now. He had told Elekdag that the Turks should reserve their position and that an agreement should be concluded which would allow flights to resume over the Aegean. Rallis said he would meet with Okcun Sept 28.5 Secretary said he understood the Greek position on talks with Turkey.

6. Rallis reiterated that the GOG is anxious about its special NATO link and stressed that time was running out. He felt that Turkey sought [Page 557] to involve NATO in resolution of the Aegean issues. Secretary repeated that US would do what it could to help further, although he recognized the problems that were involved. Nimetz said that we had made clear to the Turks that we regard Greek return to NATO as a high priority matter and that all Aegean political issues should not be resolved in that process.

7. Rallis said that with respect to Cyprus, the GOG could give advice to the Greek Cypriots but he did not see how early progress on that issue could be accomplished given the present Turkish attitude.

8. With respect to Oct 18–22 visit to Athens of Deputy Secretary Christopher, Secretary said he was very pleased that GOG had agreed to receive Christopher since he felt it was important to find ways to build the US-Greek relationship beyond the security focus of the past.6 Christopher would be prepared to talk in depth on all matters of mutual concern. We wanted to strengthen our overall relationship and find a basis to build for the future. Rallis said the GOG agreed with that objective but was concerned that political problems with Turkey would affect the development of the relationship with the US. He wanted to have constructive talks with Christopher in Athens. If there was no solution on the NATO question and no improvement in Greek-Turkish relations, he was afraid that the talks might take place under a “heavy atmosphere”. Karamanlis had acted calmly and responsibly throughout the entire recent period, including during the embargo debate, but there were limits beyond which it would be hard to pass.

9. Rallis said the GOG had told the Turks that if the Turkish side came up with better Cyprus proposals, this would perhaps lead to a new round of intercommunal talks. He could not speak for the GOC but the Greek Government had sought to improve the negotiating atmosphere and had encouraged Kyprianou not to go to the Security Council. If, however, there was nothing new in October, the Greeks could not continue to discourage recourse to the Security Council. Rallis said he would see Kyprianou Sept 28, but feared there was nothing to tell him about developments since they last met in August.

10. At the conclusion of the meeting it was agreed that both sides would indicate to the press that discussions had covered bilateral relations, including the upcoming visit to Athens of Deputy Secretary Christopher.

  1. Source: Department of State, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Cyrus R. Vance, Secretary of State—1977–1980, Lot 84D241, Box 10, Vance EXDIS MemCons, 1978. Confidential; Immediate; Exdis. Drafted by Ewing; cleared by Hopper, Arthur Houghton (S), and Thomas Reyndes (S/S); approved by Vest. Sent for information Immediate to USNATO, Nicosia, Ankara, USUN, USDELMC Brussels, USNMR SHAPE, and USDOCOSouth Naples.
  2. The Department reported on this meeting in telegram 247757 to Athens, September 29. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780397–0148)
  3. Reference is to Presidential Determination No. 78–18, “United States-Turkey Military Cooperation.” The Determination reiterated language in the final legislation on lifting the arms embargo, affirming that military cooperation with Turkey was vital to U.S. and NATO interests, and that the Turkish Government was acting in good faith to resolve the Cyprus dispute. (Public Papers: Carter, 1978, Book II, p. 1636) See also Document 121.
  4. See Document 123.
  5. Rallis and Ökçün met on September 28 in New York to discuss Aegean Sea issues including the airspace around Greek islands and the size of the continental shelf. One Turkish official described the talk as “very cordial, even fraternal.” The meeting was reported in telegram Secto 11014 from the Secretary’s Delegation in New York, September 29. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780398–1217)
  6. See Document 184.