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

1707. Subject: (C) Foreign Relations: Greece and Cyprus—The Extent and Limits of Greek Leverage.

1. (C-entire text)

2. This report is submitted in accordance with the post reporting plan (78 Athens 10420, 78 State 315775).2

3. Summary: Greek influence on the Cyprus issue, determinative prior to Cypriot independence, now is no longer controlling. Although sources of Greek leverage still exist, there are limitations on their use in both Nicosia and Athens. No Greek government can ignore Cyprus, although the national interests of Greece and Cyprus on the Cyprus issue are not identical and Greece is far more concerned over its relations with Turkey. As she has done in the past, despite her public posture that the Cyprus issue is for the GOC to resolve, Greece will continue to counsel the GOC to avoid intransigent stands and to seek a settlement with the Turkish side. Within that framework it will be possible from time to time for us to encourage the GOG discreetly to push the GOC in a moderate direction. End summary.

4. Relations between Greece and Cyprus are close and the two governments are in frequent contact. Despite the regular consultations that take place in Nicosia (through Greek Ambassador Dountas) and whenever Cypriot leaders pass through Athens, however, the GOC does not invariably seek the GOG’s advice nor does it always act on it. The relationship between Athens and Nicosia has evolved over the past 20 years. The days are long since past when a Greek government had the authority to impose its preferences for a political settlement of the Cyprus issue on Nicosia, as Athens did with the London and Zurich Accords of 1959. When Archbishop Makarios was not supported at the London Conference by the GOG in his objection to the Zurich Agreement, he submitted to the decision of Athens. Even after Cypriot independence was proclaimed the following year, sporadic direct negotiations between the GOG and the GOT on the Cyprus issue were held, over the head of Nicosia.

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5. In more recent years the trend toward a more forthright assertion of Cypriot independence has coincided with a GOG perspective that the Greek people are tiring of the Cyprus issue, that it will not be readily solved, and that the national interests of Greece are not necessarily those of Cyprus. The result of this evolution has been to increase the sense of political distance between Nicosia and Athens. This is further aggravated by the general lack of trust and confidence in President Kyprianou, who is regarded as being out of his depth by most Greek leaders. Moreover, Karamanlis is determined to avoid being drawn again into the Cyprus vortex and is anxious to avoid repeating his pre-independence experience which was costly to him in domestic political terms.

6. Despite the new equation between Nicosia and Athens, however, the GOG inevitably continues to carry considerable weight with the GOC. For one thing, Nicosia still has substantial need of Athens, its main supporter, for psychological as well as political reasons. The pervasive appeal of “Hellenism” cannot be ignored. Moreover, Cyprus needs Greece’s support in the UN, and Greece gives it even though GOC recourse to the UN is sometimes made despite the GOG’s advice. Greek financial assistance to Cyprus continues at substantial levels. A one billion drachmas (some $28 million) annual line item for assistance was budgeted in 1977, 1978 and 1979, making Greece the largest foreign aid donor. In addition to the 950-man Greek force in Cyprus, which is there legally under the provisions of the London-Zurich Agreements, there are still an estimated 1000 Greek Army officers and men seconded to the 12,000-man Cypriot National Guard, whose presence is not covered by those Agreements, as well as one 300-man Greek raiding forces battalion. Thus, the GOC listens attentively to GOG advice, even though it may not always take it.

7. At the same time, there are limits to the degree that Athens is willing to seek to influence Nicosia, and limits to the extent that any such efforts can be successful. The Greek Government cannot put itself in the position of urging the acceptance of a disadvantageous Cyprus settlement. PASOK’s Andreas Papandreou, and other opposition lead-ers, would have a field day with a credible charge that the Karamanlis government had sacrificed Greek interests on Cyprus. Similar constraints operate in Cyprus where Socialist Party (EDEK) leader Lyssaridis and Communist Party (AKEL) chairman Papaioannou would be quick to charge betrayal or sellout by the GOG if it advocated a course of action that appeared to make too many concessions in the interest of a settlement. Such constraints on Athens will not become an open fourth party to the Cyprus negotiations.

8. Another considerable constraint that conditions the nature of Athens’ involvement in the Cyprus question is its perception that the [Page 575] GOC may not be seriously looking for a settlement of the issue. Since any settlement would entail some risktaking and, inevitably, a measure of unpopularity for the government that agreed to it (certainly in Athens as well as Nicosia, and we suspect possibly Ankara as well), the Cyprus situation has in a way produced its own stalemate. As seen from Athens, the GOC appears to find it preferable to continue with the known posture of keeping the present “struggle” going indefinitely rather than embarking on the hazards of a new settlement. If that is indeed the case, then there is even less incentive for Athens to advance beyond what is politically possible in Nicosia.

9. In this context, since the prospects for an actual settlement are assessed by the GOG as remote, underlying national interests are seen in sharper relief. And it should be borne in mind that Greek and Cypriot national interests in the Cyprus issue are far from identical. To Nicosia, of course, what is at stake are the terms of national survival. To Athens, on the other hand, the paramount issue is its relations with Turkey, and here the Aegean problems are of first priority. Nevertheless, no Greek government can appear to ignore Cyprus. Karamanlis is quick to point out, both in private and in public (as he did again during the January 16 foreign policy discussion in Parliament), that “everything begins with Cyprus” and Turkish agreement to a fair settlement there is essential. Yet the Aegean, and not Cyprus, worries Karamanlis and most Greeks and could be the cause of war, which Cyprus was not in 1974 and is even less likely to be now.

10. It is instructive to note some recent instances in which Greece has given Cyprus advice on the issue. The GOG, we know, strongly urged the GOC to accept the US–UK-Canada non-paper, despite reservations about some of its provisions, as a basis for resumption of the intercommunal talks.3 Unfortunately, the advice was not taken by the GOC and we find ourselves in the present impasse at least in part because of this. When Foreign Minister Rallis found the GOC’s formulation for UN Secretary General Waldheim last December to be so negative that it would have been unacceptable to both Waldheim and the Turkish Cypriots, he convinced Rolandis to redraft the formula along more moderate lines. Earlier, Athens reacted strongly when Kyprianou rejected the Denktash proposals on Varosha last July out of hand and got Kyprianou to partially reverse himself subsequently. The common thread of these events is that Athens will actively try to prod Nicosia into more moderate paths when the GOG fears that Greek Cypriot intransigence may become the issue. Such a course would directly undercut the GOG’s own interests, for Greek Cypriot intransigence weakens the Greek Cypriot posture before other fora, and particularly [Page 576] before the American Congress. The result might well be a lessening of American concern over any decline in the prospects for a more positive Turkish role on the Cyprus issue. In the worst case scenario from the GOG point of view, lack of constraints and attention from the Congress (and an adjusted geopolitical situation in the wake of recent events in Iran) might even lead to a real American “tilt” towards Ankara. It must, of course, be a prime goal of any Greek government to check any such development.

11. A real problem in this situation may be that since any settlement will involve political risks, Nicosia may prefer the appearance rather than the substance of forward motion on the Cyprus issue. Indeed, we think it unlikely that in the absence of our non-paper, or some other outside initiative, any movement toward resumption of negotiations would have been possible. It follows that if the Waldheim plan succeeds in getting the parties to the intercommunal negotiating table it may require artful outside pressures to keep them there.

12. Clearly, a moderating Greek influence on Nicosia, even though not decisive, can be helpful in nurturing the negotiating process and is something we should continue to encourage when we have appropriate opportunities to do so. This argues for close and frequent consultations with the GOG and keeping it informed of U.S. thinking and actions in order to gain Greek support. In doing this we should avoid pressing too hard or asking for too much, always keeping in mind the limits of Greek influence and thus of GOG resistance to becoming more directly and openly involved. The GOG would like to see a settlement on Cyprus and has demonstrated its willingness to play a role, albeit quiet and indirect, in pursuit of it. We should recognize this and act accordingly. More than that, under present circumstances, would be unrealistic to expect.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790086–0567. Confidential; Exdis; Noforn. Sent for information to Ankara, Nicosia, and USUN.
  2. Telegram 10420 from Athens, November 28, and telegram 315775 to Athens, December 5, are in the National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780492–0587 and D780518–0096.
  3. See footnote 2, Document 61.