visit to Athens by Assistant Secretary of State Richard Burt was called off today after the Greek government objected to what it claimed were pro-Turkish statements made by Burt in Ankara over the weekend.
Athens took particular exception to reports that Burt said the United States was opposed to maintaining the 7-to-10 ratio in U.S. military aid to Greece and Turkey. The Greeks also objected to Burt's reported criticism of the "internationalization" of the Cyprus issue, which Cyprus, with Greek backing, seeks to bring to a United Nations General Asembly debate in early May.
The Greek government responded by announcing that Burt, who is assistant secretary of state for European affairs, would not be received here by Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou as planned. Meetings with Foreign Minister Yannis Charalambopoulos and Undersecretary Yannis Kapsis, the chief Greek negotiator in the current talks on the future of U.S. military bases here, also were canceled.
In a terse one-line statement late today, the U.S. Embassy in Athens said that "given the Greek government's decision Mr. Burt will not be visiting Greece at this time." Burt had been scheduled to arrive tonight.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Carolyn Johnson said that Burt's statements in Turkey "did not depart from our previously known position," which she said was "that there aren't any mechanically fixed ratios" for U.S. aid. The Reagan administration has challenged the 7-to-10 ratio maintained since the late 1970s by proposing $280 million in military aid to Greece in fiscal 1984 and more than $700 million to Turkey. The administration has told Athens, however, that it plans to increase its aid to $500 million, assuming that agreement is reached on the bases.
The controversy was used by Papandreou as an occasion for a tough prime-time address on state television on the bases talks.
Diplomatic observers in Athens, however, suggested that the air of crisis around the incident may represent the storm before the lull in Greek-U.S. relations. They speculated that Papandreou may have used the affair to try to appease left-wing sentiment on what may be the eve of a framework agreement on the bases.
At a hastily organized briefing for foreign correspondents today, senior officials close to the talks assessed their prospects in much brighter colors than Papandreou did in his televised address.