19. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Secretary’s Meeting on Greece and Turkey


  • Senator Paul S. Sarbanes
  • Congressman John Brademas
  • Congressman Benjamin S. Rosenthal
  • Mr. Clifford P. Hackett, Senator Sarbanes’ staff
  • Mr. Richard Horowitz, Congressman Brademas’ staff
  • The Secretary
  • Assistant Secretary Bennet, H
  • Assistant Secretary Vest, EUR

Visits with Ecevit and Caramanlis

The Secretary described his more than two hours’ conversation with Ecevit where they had talked of global, regional, and bilateral issues. On the matters of immediate interest, Ecevit said he was determined to get the Cyprus issue settled so that it would not interfere with the economic, social, and other priority issues which now faced Turkey. He said he intended to be an activist and would have new proposals for both the territorial and constitutional issues in Cyprus. He had discussed his ideas with Denktash who is in agreement on their substance. His territorial proposal might not offer as much as the Greek Cypriots would like at the outset of their discussions, but it would be a genuine offer and a basis for negotiation. On the constitutional side he thought it should be a federal and not a confederal system and his proposal would be a real practical basis for resolving the situation. Cyprus, as he said several times, was a thorn that had to be removed so that Turkey could deal with issues that were more vital to Turkish needs.

As for the DCA, Ecevit hoped the question would be resolved soon. The Secretary told Ecevit that he was proceeding on the assumption that he, Ecevit, knew that this issue was linked to the situation in Cyprus and it was simply a matter of fact that this relationship was much in the minds of Congressmen. Ecevit said that the DCA was outmoded and not really fair to the Turks because the dollar had depreci [Page 79] ated and arms cost more and maybe it should be looked at again. The Secretary had responded that if the DCA were opened up, it was unrealistic to think that the result would be any increased amounts; that was a simple fact of life. We had endorsed the Turkish DCA in principle and the decision as to when it would move in Congress was related to the events in the Eastern Mediterranean, as we had made clear to the previous Turkish administration and to the Turkish Ambassador.

The Secretary said that in Greece he had a lengthy and useful discussion with Caramanlis. Caramanlis explained that from his point of view Cyprus was at the core of his difficulties with Turkey and with the Greek-NATO relationship. He would like to have the Cyprus issue resolved, but he was inclined to doubt the Turks would put a serious proposal on the table. The Secretary explained to Caramanlis what Ecevit had said to him and Caramanlis responded that if it should turn out that way, he would try to get Cyprus resolved, which in turn could clear the way to reintegrate the Greek forces into NATO.2 From his point of view the Aegean was more important than Cyprus. The Secretary told Caramanlis that he was pleased that the two sides planned to resume their Paris discussions on this issue on February 12 and asked what he proposed to do about Ecevit’s offer for a summit. Caramanlis had responded that if something useful were to come, he would favor it, but he did have questions. Did Ecevit have the power to deliver? Was he sincere about trying to resolve the difficulties? The Secretary pointed out that it would be possible to have lower level talks to test the way, and if these proved encouraging, he could go ahead at the top. (He commented to the Congressmen that he was encouraged that now publicly Caramanlis has followed this line.)

In general he said Caramanlis’ mood was very good, optimistic, positive, and friendly. In fact, much the same could be said of Ecevit. Both urged that the U.S. should not try to play a direct role, but should be available to help if asked. The Secretary said he made it clear that we are available to assist the U.N. Secretary General and the parties if they wish, but we looked to them to work it out.

The Secretary observed that his own feeling was that Ecevit had more to him than Caramanlis seemed to think at this point. He believed that Ecevit, who was a very bright man, really wanted to resolve the issues.

[Page 80]


Brademas asked if the Secretary had made it clear to the Turks that linkage really remains a fact of life here. The Secretary replied that insofar as Congress is concerned, it was clear that there is linkage. Brademas noted that this Administration had inherited Kissinger’s DCA-or-nothing framework and now that Ecevit had raised renegotiating the DCA, he suggested we could pick that up and find some way to get out of the four-year DCA framework. The Secretary replied that what Ecevit wanted was another agreement with more money so renegotiating the DCA would not be helpful. We didn’t like the four-year packages, but the arrangements with Spain, Turkey, Greece, and possibly the Philippines were there and we were stuck with them. Brademas persisted that if we wanted to find a handle to move to another arrangement, Ecevit has provided an opening.

He then turned to the IMF and suggested that the IMF people could tell the Turks that they have a lot of extra expenses with their forces in Cyprus. Brademas had the impression that we had not done much with the economic weapon.

The Secretary interjected that he had raised with Ecevit the question of reducing the number of years in the DCA, and Ecevit had replied it simply would be disastrous and give the impression of a lack of U.S. commitment and continuity in U.S. policy.

Returning to linkage, Brademas asked if he could say that he had been assured by the Administration that there was no change in our policy and that the DCA was linked to progress in Cyprus. The Secretary replied that we had never said that, so the answer was no. He went on: There would be hearings in the spring and the issue would come up at that time. He would have to see what was put on the table by the Turks and the others and after being in touch with the Congressmen, he would then make his final decision. Brademas said that he recalled a meeting with the President who had told him, “I can’t say it publicly, but I am telling you there is a linkage.” He said he would like to say that the President had made a campaign pledge to that effect and that he believed him. He displayed a Greek-American newspaper with the headline, “Now it’s tricky Jimmy.” The Secretary said it should be clear that when we see what is on the table we, after consulting with the Congressmen, will decide what the Administration will do.

Sarbanes interjected that he was worried about Papandreou’s strength at the last election, which he understood had been heavily financed by Qadhafi. He was concerned about the long-run situation in Greece. We don’t know what Ecevit will put on the table. We don’t like four-year agreements, but if the Cyprus situation is resolved, we will be back to square one. He could see that eventually he and the Administration could differ in judgment as to whether what Ecevit put on [Page 81] the table was or was not reasonable. Sarbanes went on that it did not help to have Haig, reinforced by the Pentagon, make statements favoring early action for Turkey. This gave a picture of the Administration playing a double game. He emphasized at once, however, that he did not attribute this to the Secretary. However, he continued, the Administration’s approach was a carrot and stick approach, and the military seem disposed to give the carrot right away and try to end-run Congress. How optimistic, he said, was the Secretary?

The Secretary replied he could not say yet but, on the basis of what Waldheim and Ecevit had told him, he felt that Ecevit really wanted to get the Cyprus issue out of the way. He thought Ecevit was sincere. Caramanlis was doubtful, but was ready to explore the possibilities. On constitutional issues he thought the proposal would be forthcoming. On the territorial one the initial proposal would be at least a fair beginning. That was his guess. On the DCA he anticipated doing nothing on the Hill before March. That would give time for the Ecevit proposals to be looked at in February. Sarbanes returned to his point that he was concerned that the Turks would look forthcoming and Congress would be on the spot to give away its billion dollar decision prematurely before we knew where the Turkish negotiations would lead. The Secretary responded that until he saw what was on the table he could not answer. Rosenthal reinforced Sarbanes’ point and said that once Congress had acted it would have no more carrot and the Turks would only be midstream in the negotiations. The Secretary responded that it really depended on momentum of events in the Eastern Mediterranean. That was as close as he could go to linkage, and we had explained before why we did not wish to go beyond that.

The Secretary circulated the figures that would be going up in the budget for Greece and Turkey. He thought that the arrangement had been worked out properly with lower numbers in the proposal and higher numbers in the footnote, following the Congressmen’s suggestion from their last meeting.

The Secretary noted that he had asked Caramanlis what was his approach to the Greek DCA. Caramanlis had said that although he might change his mind, at that point he did not think he could go forward with it until he had resolved the Greece-NATO relationship, and he could not resolve that until he had settled Cyprus. Brademas observed that if the Administration decided to push for the Turkish DCA and not the Greek DCA, there would be all hell to pay on the Hill. He hoped we would not get into this jam. The Secretary shared the hope.

The Secretary noted that the Turks would like follow-on discussions on bilateral issues and in the course of that discussion he, the Secretary, had urged the Foreign Minister to face up to their economic situation in relation to the IMF review. Brademas appreciated the fact that [Page 82] the Secretary had brought up economics and the IMF with both Ecevit and the Foreign Minister.

Senator Sarbanes asked if the Turks appreciated that if Cyprus were settled, the U.S.-Turkish relationship would be okay, and the Secretary said yes. Particularly this was true of Ecevit, who was a sophisticated man. Brademas, trying again, asked if NATO is so important, why couldn’t we urge Ecevit to be much more forthcoming, implying that otherwise there might be a question of IMF help and arms. The Secretary responded that he thought blackmail would be dangerous to fool around with, and in fact he was not certain that we had that much leverage with the IMF. Sarbanes again said he was disturbed about Haig, the Pentagon, and the kind of story that had recently appeared in the Washington Post, giving the impression that the Administration had one viewpoint, but that Congress was impeding action.3 This public image would create a whole new ball game.

Rosenthal suggested that it would be appropriate for the Secretary to send Ecevit a message to wrap up his recent visit and to stimulate him to be as forthcoming as possible in the prospective negotiations. The Secretary agreed at once this was a logical thing to do, and he would write to him in that sense. Sarbanes on linkage summarized that linkage was privately established, but could not be publicly stated. Sarbanes, returning to the figures for FMS and grant aid, noted a drop in grant aid for Greece, which Assistant Secretary Bennet said he would look into.

The Secretary concluded that all concerned recognized this was a critical time. Ecevit, he felt, had to take initiatives and Caramanlis and he had to be the men to settle things. He liked Caramanlis very much and found him an interesting, thoughtful, and encouraging national leader. Caramanlis was worried about the seabed and Greek sovereignty in the Aegean and the possibility of Papandreou exploiting the situation, but in general thought there was at least a possibility now for constructive evolution in the Mediterranean. Brademas noted that on several occasions recently Matt Nimetz talked about the U.S. getting more involved in the substance of a possible Cyprus settlement. The Secretary responded that both the Greeks and Turks had said that we should stay out and leave it to them to work under the aegis of the United Nations. We agreed to do so, but stand ready to assist if the United Nations and the concerned parties wish.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P780045–2474. Confidential. Drafted by Vest; cleared by Bennet; approved by Anderson on February 1. The meeting took place on the eighth floor of the Department of State. Vance had met with Ecevit in Ankara January 20–21 and with Karamanlis in Athens January 21. See Documents 107 and 173.
  2. Greece dropped out of NATO’s military structure in response to NATO’s failure to halt the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XXX, Greece; Cyprus; Turkey, 1973–1976, Documents 2023, 25, 26, and 56.
  3. Michael Getler, “Vance Gets Blunt Turkish Welcome,” The Washington Post, January 21, 1978, p. A14.