184. Telegram From the Embassy in Greece to the Department of State1
9184. Miladdees treat as Specat Exclusive. Subject: Secretary’s Visit—Session on Security Topics.
1. Summary. Deputy Secretary Christopher met morning October 20 with Foreign Minister Rallis, Defense Minister Averoff and others for a 90-minute talk on security matters. The Greeks raised the problem of NATO re-entry terms—on which discussion focused—and the need for preserving the military balance; U.S. side probed Greek-Turkish Aegean problems and offered to study the feasibility of cooperative defense ventures. Meeting was somewhat strained by Greek warning (reflecting Karamanlis’ instructions to Rallis following previous evening session)2 that Military Committee approval of any compromise accepting the Turkish demand for changes to the Haig-Davos Arrangement would result in (a) GOG withdrawal of its reintegration bid as well as (b) a re-examination both of its current military cooperation with the Alliance and of the legal status of U.S. facilities.3 On the other [Page 561] hand, if a MC majority accepted the Haig-Davos Arrangement with minority Turkish footnotes, Greece would maintain its proposal so the USG and other allies could discuss the matter further. In that context, Averoff said Greece could undertake not to use NATO command arrangements in the bilateral dispute with Turkey over Aegean issues. Greece’s Aegean security concerns, and the resultant need for preserving the present balance, were forcefully presented, although without any specific dollar/equipment requests or any plea for equal levels of aid. Greek side welcomed proposed visit of U.S. experts to explore co-production possibilities. Neither DCA status nor expansion of ship visits was discussed. End summary.
2. The Deputy Secretary was accompanied by the Ambassador, Nimetz, Dillery, DCM, POL Counselor and POL/MIL Officer (notetaker). With Ministers Averoff and Rallis were Ambassador Alexandrakis, MFA SecGen Theodoropoulos and MFA DirGen Tzounis plus Ambassadors Chorafas and Chrysopathis and Major General Vamblis as notetakers. The discussion was more formal than the previous evening with the Prime Minister and centered on two questions: NATO re-integration and the military balance.
3. NATO re-integration: Rallis opened by describing the deterioration of Greek-American relations as a result of the Greek people’s belief that the U.S. had favored the Junta and had failed to prevent the second Cyprus invasion. This attitude, he said, was exploited by the Greek left in 1975–76 to encourage large demonstrations against ship visits and the U.S. Embassy. Singularly due to the Prime Minister’s efforts, he said, the atmosphere had changed entirely but he fears it is in danger of deteriorating once again simply because of what Greece is asked to accept in connection with the re-establishment of links with NATO.
4. Upon instructions of Karamanlis, Rallis then detailed why the GOG could not accept the Turkish conditions on proposals that General Haig had endorsed and for which he had congratulated the Greek military leadership. If the Military Committee changed SACEUR’s original assessment and required Greece to make compensations to Turkey, he said, “it would be best to postpone taking any decisions while the USG brings political pressure to bear so that the proposals are accepted.” Greece could not start negotiations and would be obliged to withdraw its proposal, with the following consequences: (a) The degree of Greek-NATO military cooperation that has been possible even though Greece has not been a member of the integrated military structure, would naturally have to be “re-examined.” (b) Since the fate of [Page 562] U.S. military facilities is legally connected to Greece’s tie with NATO, the absence of a “special relationship” would put them into question.
5. Christopher responded that the USG is firmly and deeply committed to Greek re-integration as soon as possible, but that matters were not as in 1974. Command and force structures have evolved, necessitating adjustments. The Haig-Davos Arrangements were consistent with Alliance principles and were basically acceptable to the allies as a workable framework for re-integration. However, there remain the delicate problems of command and control. The Military Committee decision, as yet unknown, would not be a final decision but rather an interim finding by a body that probably would feel it did not have jurisdiction to settle all problems. It was the US intention to intensify its efforts, working with other allies, to reach a political decision bringing Greece back in on a basis acceptable to Greece. Christopher remarked that in the light of Karamanlis’ deep concern for maintaining Greek security, the withdrawal step Rallis warned of would have the opposite effect. He hoped that Greece would not take such an action. Moreover, the areas of agreement are already very large, and the USG acknowledges a responsibility to expedite a solution on the few remaining issues.
6. Rallis clarified that if the MC decision were unanimously to change the Haig assessment, Greece would be forced to withdraw its proposal. If, on the other hand, there were a majority decision supportive of the Haig assessment with Turkey in the minority, then Greece would permit the matter to continue to be discussed. He reiterated what Karamanlis had said, that Greece cannot return under conditions less favorable than 1974. Rallis acknowledged things had changed since 1974, but remarked that not very much had changed since Haig found the Greek proposals acceptable a few months ago. He concluded, “Greece is at the limit; nothing more can be accepted.” He continued that even a split MC decision and continued discussion of open issues would cause the GOG public and parliamentary problems and concluded that, if Greece is not needed by NATO, then NATO should inform Greece of that fact and Greece would draw its own conclusions.
7. Christopher described the difficult position in which the USG finds itself, torn between two allies who have lost confidence in each other. Without wanting to take sides, he indicated the U.S. had reason to hope Turkey would take a conciliatory approach to remaining problems. On the other hand, notwithstanding some sympathy for the Greek position, it is essential to find a way to achieve re-integration without prejudicing Aegean political matters. The issue needed quiet, careful thought. Perhaps, he suggested, command arrangements could be separated from bilateral problems, as he understood Greece and General Haig wanted. Rallis agreed fully, but said that unfortunately [Page 563] Turkey had hardened its positions and raised the public awareness of this problem’s political aspect with recent statements, while Greece has tried to keep the matter private.
8. At this point Averoff, speaking for the first time, described the military steps Greece has taken to better relations with the U.S. (re-commitment of certain nuclear-capable units, participation in nearly all exercises, submission of NATO re-integration proposals, continued functioning of U.S. facilities “practically as they were before”), but said Karamanlis, despite his strong political position, could not do everything to improve ties. He acknowledged the Greek obsession with security of the Aegean islands and claimed that Greece could not let NATO discussions aid Turkey’s claims against the islands. After discussing the military balance question, Averoff returned to the NATO problem with the statement that the U.S. representatives who helped prepare the second Military Committee draft had played a very active and, to Greece, disagreeable role when they tried to accommodate Turkish pressures. When he heard that, Averoff said, he became less optimistic and feared the Turks were being successful.
9. Christopher asked whether there is a legitimate Turkish concern that the Haig-Davos Arrangement might prejudice Turkish positions in bilateral talks. After further probing, Averoff finally stated, ad referendum, that Greece could undertake not to use command arrangements in bilateral political discussions if that would help. In response to a question, Tzounis said Greece could not use, for example, the line drawn in the Aegean for NATO command purposes in the continental shelf talks because that problem was resolvable on the basis of international law alone; the International Court would not accept command arrangements as relevant. On the other hand, Turkey does not want, according to Tzounis, to isolate juridical issues but wants a political discussion where she would use new command arrangements against Greece. Christopher and Averoff agreed that the urgent matter now on the table was NATO re-integration, and Averoff reiterated that command arrangements “certainly” could be settled without prejudice to bilateral political problems. (Comment: Subsequently, Theodoropoulos advised Nimetz that the statement Averoff had made ad referendum had been checked with the Prime Minister who agreed that Greece would not use any command arrangements made in the NATO context to bolster its position in bilateral negotiations with Turkey on Aegean issues.)
10. The military balance. Averoff cited the second Turkish invasion of Cyprus, various GOT official statements about how the Aegean islands must become Turkish, including an alleged TGS manual, as creating Greek concerns about the security of the islands. He said Greece also recognized the Warsaw Pact threat in response to which [Page 564] Greece cultivates “very close” relations with Yugoslavia, strongly defends the Bulgarian border and seeks re-entry into NATO. But all that did not mean Greece could neglect defending its islands. Defenseless, they could be taken in 24 hours and could not be retaken. He stressed that armed islands were no threat to Turkey, as geography made obvious.
11. Greece, he said, had the possibility of an easy way out—the extension of territorial waters to 12 miles thereby reducing international waters in the Aegean from 50 to 20 percent. However, Greece is not following that course because it wants a solution. Meanwhile it needs a balance in the area so it can defend itself. (Averoff parenthetically allowed that the Greek-Turkish quarrel and the resultant arms race were “crazy and disastrous” for both countries.) The Greek General Staff believes there is a balance today and no Greek government could prejudice that position. A balance gives security to Greece and dissuades Turkey from foolish and destructive moves.
12. Christopher allowed that it was not for the U.S. to say whether Greece’s apprehensions were justified; clearly, they were strongly felt. The President was committed not to alter the regional balance. Congress had taken account of the Greek concern, but had broadened the context to include the Warsaw Pact-NATO balance as well as countries in the area. He said the U.S. would live up to the legislation by not providing provocative, technologically advanced weaponry to one and not the other. In addition there would be an annual review by our experts as well as the Congress in connection with security assistance legislation. He stressed, as he had to Karamanlis, that the U.S. would be as conscientious as it could not to upset the balance, but that such refined judgments would consider the overall regional picture and not be based on dollar-for-dollar comparisons.
13. Greek-Turkish differences. At various times during the discussion, Aegean air space and continental shelf matters were addressed. Christopher expressed the hope that both countries could work together to regain mutual confidence. Rallis drew on his recent meeting in New York with Turkish Foreign Minister Okcun (who he had heard was a hard man) to indicate that the latter had tried to find solutions to problems but that Elekdag had “stopped him from being rational.” It was the experts, Rallis said, who forced things to an impasse with impossible demands. When asked whether bilateral discussions had included NATO re-entry, Rallis described how he had attempted to pin Okcun down on the question of Aegean air space so that commercial traffic could be resumed. When the Turks had called for reduction of the Greek territorial air space around islands from ten to six nautical miles, Rallis had immediately offered to phone Karamanlis and strike a bargain if that were all that was required to settle the matter. Okcun [Page 565] then demurred and pointed to the continental shelf, the arming of the islands, and Greek re-entry into NATO as other questions that needed to be resolved at the same time.
14. In connection with air space, Nimetz said he had thought the only major sticking point was the 10-mile question. Theodoropoulos said two basic differences remained: (a) the 10-mile airspace around islands established in 1931 and recognized by the Turks until 1975, and (b) early warning.4 It had been agreed that the 10-mile issue should be deferred until the end, but the Turks kept bringing it up as a precondition. Greece was willing to have the Turks make a reservation on the issue, even though it had been explicitly acknowledged by them in pre-1975 [garble—notes] covering military exercises. With respect to early warning, Greece was willing to do so in an area west of the FIR line but Turkey refused to give Greece reciprocity east of the FIR line. Instead it wanted to divide the Aegean into two zones with the NOTAM 714 line as the early warning boundary.
15. Defense industrial cooperation. At the end of the session, Christopher offered to have a team of experts come to Greece to investigate the possibilities for the co-production of military weaponry. He noted that the U.S. would also be doing this with Turkey within the framework of NATO standardization and interoperability, and that, in both cases, there could be no guarantees that any concrete steps would flow from these feasibility studies. Averoff welcomed the offer and agreed that a mutually convenient time be set in the near future in coordination with the Embassy.
16. Broadening the relationship. Christopher asked how the U.S. could strengthen our relationship in the aftermath of the lifting of the Turkish arms embargo. Rallis replied that the relationship could not be strengthened unless the political climate were improved. That depended on solving the problems that had just been discussed, i.e. NATO re-entry and the Aegean balance, which in turn depended on the U.S. He declared the relationship would be harmed if there were an attempt to discuss health problems, for example, when national problems were not yet solved. Averoff called on the U.S. not to provide additional ammunition to the anti-American extreme left which is so adept at destructive sloganeering. The U.S. should not take actions that could be characterized by them as pro-Turkish or which gave the impression of sustaining Turkey at the expense of Greece, for this would outweigh the GOG’s statements of the opposite. Averoff also asked for an authoritative account of steps he knows the U.S. took (a) to disassociate itself from the military dictatorship and (b) to stop the 1974 coup [Page 566] against Makarios. He said the record was not excellent, but it certainly was much better than was publicly believed. Authoritative clarification would have a large impact.
17. Rallis referred again to all the GOG and Karamanlis had done to improve Greek-U.S. relations since 1974, but said that current problems could undo it. Christopher concluded that the GOG could take pride in having achieved such prosperity since 1974 in the context of strengthened democracy. But, he added, he wanted it understood that the U.S. did not have unilateral control over the problems of Cyprus or NATO re-entry, and that although these were impediments to better relations they could not be solved by the U.S. alone.
- Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780432–0631. Confidential; Immediate; Exdis. Sent for information Priority to Ankara, Nicosia, USNATO, USNMR SHAPE, USDELMC Brussels, and USDOCOSouth.↩
- In their meeting on the evening of October 19, Karamanlis told Christopher that the main security concern facing Greece was Turkey, and that, in the wake of the U.S. decision to lift the arms embargo, Turkey had become more intransigent in the disputes over Cyprus, the Aegean, and the terms of Greek reintegration into NATO. (Telegram 9122 from Athens, October 20; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780429–1147)↩
- See footnote 4, Document 177. Talks between Haig and Davos in June and July 1978 established the terms of Greek reintegration into NATO. The key arrangement agreed upon provided for Greek contribution to NATO forces at figures similar to 1974 levels, the year Greece withdrew from the NATO military structure. The basis of this arrangement was Haig’s assessment that Greek reintegration was important to the viability of NATO and that the Greek military was prepared to restore the status quo of 1974. (Telegram 6869 from USNATO, July 13; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780287–0889)↩
- The 10-mile designation was made by Greek Presidential decree in 1931, and observed by Turkey until the outbreak of hostilities over Cyprus in 1974–1975.↩