189. Telegram From Secretary of State Vance to the Department of State1

Secto 4116. Subject: NAC Ministerial: Secretary Vance’s Bilateral With Greek Foreign Minister Rallis (U).

1. (S-entire text)

2. Summary: Greek Foreign Minister Rallis told Secretary Vance in May 31 bilateral that latest SACEUR reintegration proposals presented to Greece on command and control in the Aegean were unacceptable. He explained that the proposals or any new ones like them took responsibility for the defense of Greek territory from Greece and thus could not be accepted by any Greek government. He said that further public airing of this issue could affect adversely Greek attitudes toward NATO and recommended that the matter be “frozen” for a time. Secretary Vance responded that he was not aware of the details of the Haig proposals, but would look into the matter. General Haig had told him that he had completed a new set of proposals which would be passed on to Greeks and Turks.2 Rallis indicated no knowledge as yet of new proposals. Remainder of discussion was devoted to Middle East-related issues. End summary.

3. Present for US during May 31 Vance/Rallis bilateral were Counselor Nimetz, Ambassador Bennett, Assistant Secretary Vest, and a notetaker. Present on Greek side were MFA Secretary General Theodoropoulous, MFA Political Director Tzounis, and Greek PermRep to NATO Lagacos.

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4. Secretary Vance congratulated Rallis on Greek accession to EEC. Rallis said that results were excellent for two reasons: Greece has entered the EEC with a good agreement and opposition leader Papandreou has made an enormous mistake in opposing accession which will ultimately lose him votes.

5. Rallis then outlined the current GOG position on Greek reintegration. (He spoke mostly in Greek with Tzounis interpreting.) Rallis recalled previous conversations with Deputy Secretary Christopher and Counselor Nimetz last December in Brussels on the subject.3 Greece had accepted the Haig/Davos Agreements and agreed to consider some technical “amplifications”. Then last March General Haig had asked to meet again with General Davos with some new ideas which were close enough to the original that they could be considered also as “amplifications.” Greece agreed. Rallis noted that Greeks had accepted SACEUR’s mission, specifying it to be exploratory and not mediation. Greeks were then very surprised to receive next set of Haig proposals.

6. At this point Rallis unfolded map of Aegean. He noted that latest SACEUR proposal would establish a military headquarters in Larissa placing all Greek islands except one or two in a command and control framework whereby Greek territory would not be defended by Greek Air Force but by a third party. Rallis reemphasized that virtually all islands in this area were Greek. “To make pill sweeter”, proposal also included two small Turkish islands.

7. Secretary Vance, saying he was not aware of the details of the SACEUR proposal, asked Rallis to explain it. Latter said that foreign officer (sic) at Larissa, with no Greek officers present in dealing with Aegean command and control could entrust certain missions to whatever air force he wanted, including of course Turkish Air Force.

8. Rallis stressed that this solution is unacceptable to any Greek for national reasons. Greece cannot entrust the defense of Greek territory to any foreigner. There is now a deadlock. General Haig has reportedly stated he now knows the positions of both sides and will try to formulate new proposals. Rallis said that if new proposals are similar to or even only “50 per cent” of old ones, Greeks would prefer that they not be put forward. He explained that proposals would have to be rejected and Greek proposal for NATO reintegration would have to be withdrawn. Rallis said he had previously explained to both Secretary and DepSec Christopher the consequences of such a rejection. Accordingly, it would be best to “freeze matters” at this stage.

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9. Secretary Vance said he had seen General Haig that morning at Ministerial ceremonies and asked him about the status. General Haig had said that he had prepared new proposals and, as Secretary understood it, had sent them on to Greeks and Turks. The Secretary then asked Rallis for his interpretation of original Haig/Davos discussions. Tzounis responded that Aegean command and control issues under this formula would be discussed after reintegration. PermRep Lagacos interjected that there had been general agreement in NATO’s Military Committee that, on an interim basis, the 1974 command and control lines would be accepted.

10. Rallis went on to note that Greece had indicated to SACEUR that these arrangements would not prejudice Greek/Turkish bilateral discussions and that Greece had agreed to limitation of its NATO air space. This had been accepted by Davos and the Greek Government. Rallis repeated that it would be best now to “freeze” the situation but with two pre-suppositions: (a) Turkish side should not take advantage of the freeze to “gnaw away” at Greek rights, and (b) discussions on reintegration should not be leaked to the press. Rallis noted that General Haig had made a public statement that was an irritant to Greek public opinion as well as to the Greek political opposition.

11. If matter is further aired in public and opposition asks questions in Parliament on Greek reintegration issue, Karamanlis government would have to describe its proposals of 18 months ago and to admit there had been a Turkish “veto” of these proposals.

12. Rallis said that Americans will recall that in the 1974–5 period, the opposition had harped on the theme of Greece leaving the Alliance. At that time a state of mind existed in Greece which was inimical to NATO. He cited an example in May 1976 when he was in danger of being stoned on Rhodes when he went there in the wake of protests against a US ship visit. Now, however, Greek public opinion has changed radically as the government has succeeded in demonstrating that a Greek relationship to NATO is of benefit to Greece as well as to the Alliance. Rallis asked that the Secretary join their efforts so that this state of mind is preserved.

13. Rallis claimed that Greece has been “chivalrous” to Turkey. Last December at the NATO Ministerial Rallis had said that Turkey should receive economic assistance first because of its problems. Greece also could have postponed decisions to assist Turkey in OECD, but adopted instead an attitude which facilitated assistance to Turkey. Greece has adopted this position because it believes Turkey is at least as indispensable to NATO as Greece is. Rallis said that this does not seem to be the Turkish approach. Turkey believes that she can put forward ideas which are against Greek interests. Rallis added that he had talked to Luns and stressed to him the need to keep details of reintegration [Page 581] discussions out of the newspapers if Greek Government is to be able to maintain the existing public psychology.

14. Secretary told Rallis that it was not our desire to adversely affect Greek public opinion on NATO. In fact, there was nothing further from our minds and disclosure will not come from us. Secretary repeated that General Haig had told him that he had developed a set of revised proposals. Counselor Nimetz interjected that he understood that these proposals had been sent yesterday. Rallis said that he knew nothing of this and had talked by telephone to the Prime Minister who didn’t know anything either. According to Rallis, Secretary General Luns had the impression that gap on reintegration between Greece and Turkey is closing. Rallis told Luns that two sides are like “night and day” and the proposals are impossible.

15. Secretary Vance, repeating that he did not know what was in the proposals, indicated that we will follow this matter.

16. Tzounis and Legacos provided further explanation of Greek position along familiar lines. They alleged that Alliance had accepted the fact that Aegean command and control arrangements should be interim. Only Turkey has not agreed. This matter should not become a bilateral controversy. Greece had made proposals. The assessment by SACEUR was favorable, and only Turkey had objected. General Haig is not a mediator but had been given a fact-finding mission. Greeks had agreed that command and control arrangements could be discussed after reintegration. Problem now was between Alliance and Turkey; it was not a bilateral one.

17. Rallis then described Karamanlis’ visits to Syria, Yugoslavia, and Romania. In all these places Prime Minister had attempted to convince government leaders to take a more favorable position toward US policy in the Middle East. Syria’s Assad had bluntly refused, calling Sadat a traitor. Romania’s Ceausescu had been more encouraging about Sadat’s importance for a settlement but was not prepared to make a public statement to this effect. Tito had been less encouraging, but had promised Karamanlis not to take an extremist attitude. Rallis commented that Tito seemed to have kept his promise.

18. Rallis then stressed interest that Greeks have regarding access of Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem to its holy places there. Rallis said that Greek Government had formulated a proposal on an apolitical basis that would preserve under international protection the access of all three faiths in Jerusalem to religious lands and properties.

19. Secretary Vance said that this matter had been discussed at Camp David. It had been agreed that there should be free and complete access by all religions. Each religion should have the right to administer and control its holy places. However, agreement on this concept had bogged down on the issue of sovereignty, and thus the paragraph had [Page 582] to be dropped. Tzounis thought that proposals that GOG had formulated might be a way to move forward. Secretary Vance expressed interest in seeing the proposal and Rallis promised to pass it through the Greek Embassy in Washington.

20. Secretary asked Rallis to pass his regards to Prime Minister Karamanlis. Rallis concluded the conversation by expressing hope for movement towards solution of Greek reintegration problem. Failure to move on this was risky for Turks, too.

  1. Source: Department of State, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Cyrus R. Vance, Secretary of State—1977–1980, Lot 84D241, Box 9, Vance EXDIS Memcons, 1979. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Drafted by Vest; cleared by Nimetz; approved by Davis. Sent for information Immediate to Ankara, Athens, USNMR SHAPE, USDOCOSouth Naples, and USNATO. Vance was in Madrid June 1–2 for the U.S.-Spanish Council meeting after attending the NATO Ministerial meeting in The Hague May 29–31.
  2. See Document 191.
  3. See Document 186.