22 Hood to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram 110 LONDON, [1] 13 March 1947, 6 p.m.


Reference my telegram of March 4th, probable programme for Commission is as follows. Until 12th March main body of Commission will continue to hear principal witnesses at Salonika. After 12th March witnesses may be heard at discretion of Commission by a small body remaining in Salonika. From 9th to 20th March an investigation team under the leadership of the Australian representative will visit Albanian frontier region and Yugoslav frontier region in neighbourhood of Florina. From 13th to 19th March another team will visit Yugoslav frontier area accessible from Salonika. Proposed terminal date for enquiry in Greece is about 22nd March. Chief delegates may then visit Sofia and Belgrade, proceeding to Switzerland for preparation of report.

2. Party which has been visiting islands and Central Greece collected practically no evidence bearing directly on frontier problems but received much political propaganda on the one hand from refugees from the northern Balkan countries now living in the islands and on the other from Communists exiled on the Island of Ikaria, guerilla groups and guerilla-controlled villages. One witness seen was Andreas Tzimas, former Communist Deputy who was E.L.A.S. [2] Liaison Officer to Tito. It is possible he may be summoned to Salonika to give evidence respecting his activities in Yugoslavia, which have been frequently referred to by witnesses heard here. The general trend of the evidence heard by this party from witnesses was to the effect that the disturbances in Greece and on the frontier were due solely to the alleged persecution by the present Government of all left wing elements, and that the bandits operating in Central Greece had not been armed by the Northern Balkan powers but were only using arms from the E.L.A.S.

Army, or those taken by force from the Greek Army and Gendarmerie.

Allegations of persecution by the right wing were also made by witnesses heard at Agoriani, which is in a bandit-controlled area.

To E.A.M. adherents in this area the present conflict seemed one entirely of Greek 'Democracy' against the 'Fascist' Government of Athens, and no knowledge was admitted of intervention from outside.

3. On the other hand, the witnesses presented by the Greek Government who are now being heard at Salonika, all of whom so far have been former members of bands who either surrendered or were captured, have been specific as regards details of active support given to bandits from across the frontiers, and for the most part have not been shaken under exhaustive cross examination from the Yugoslav, Bulgarian, Albanian and (to a less extent) the Soviet representatives. There is no doubt that their evidence is building up a picture of, at the least, deliberate connivance of the northern countries at the warfare in Greece, including military training (particularly in Yugoslavia), facilities for crossing the frontiers, supply of arms and equipment, and care of wounded. One central fact which is emerging is the activity of the so-called People's Liberation Front (N.O.F.) in Yugoslavia, which appears in reality to be a movement for the incorporation of Greek Macedonia into Yugoslav Macedonia, and which all through last year was indoctrinating Greek bandits in the north with the idea of Macedonian 'liberation' from Greece.

4. In this connection it is likely that the Yugoslavs, in their anxiety to grind an axe for themselves, have exceeded the limits of the encouragement which they received from Moscow in the early stages of the intervention in Greece. The Soviet Representative of the Commission has been visibly embarrassed at the disclosures of the activities of N.O.F. It obviously does not suit Soviet policy to be implicitly associated with a movement of which the object is an avowed annexation of territory.

5. It is now possible to see the main lines of the report which would be drafted by the majority of the Commission. It would include the clear deduction from the evidence that the frontier disturbances have been in the last 12 months aided and abetted by the northern Balkan states, that at least two of these, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria, have attempted to make use of Greek internal instability to provoke expansionist aims at the expense of Greek territory, and that behind the whole range of these more or less related activities lies the idea, not openly put forward by Governments but certainly developed at many lower levels, of the incorporation of Greece in the Communist-controlled Balkans Bloc.

The majority opinion would also be that Greece itself was very far from faultless, that there is some substance in the allegations of a state of civil war in Greece, and that a great many of the 20 or 30,000 Greeks who comprise the bandit forces are genuinely resisting what they believe to be an authoritarian, antidemocratic rule.

6. While this would be the broad judgment of the majority of the Commission on the facts as they have been seen on the spot, there is also a strong feeling that the Commission should go to the limit of its authorised powers in making recommendations for the future. The Greek Foreign Office itself, through its Liaison Officer with the Commission, has indicated to the United States and Australian representatives its hope that the Commission, while making for the sake of the record a clear condemnation of the acts of intervention from the north, will proceed further and suggest means for putting a stop to the present situation. An acceptable arrangement to the Greeks would be a non-aggression pact between the four Balkan countries in similar terms to the pacts concluded between the Soviet Union and the Little Entente in 1933. These earlier treaties contain a detailed definition of aggression (identical with that discussed at San Francisco) which covers fairly exactly the contingencies now present along the Greek frontier. Before the Greek Foreign Office made these views known the same idea had been canvassed by the United States delegation, and it would probably be acceptable to the majority of the Commission. There would naturally have to be adaptations from the model treaty of 1933 and especially it would be essential to provide for a standing Supervisory Commission under the United Nations, to be composed either of the four states themselves or the four states plus certain other members of the United Nations.

If you have any comments on this proposal I would be glad to receive them in good time before preparation of the report.

7. The Greek view is that if the Commission does this much it will fully justify itself and that the United Nations can thereafter safely leave Greece to work out its own salvation. This, unfortunately, is not true. Recent decisions of the Athens Government, a new wave of arrests of left wing adherents, and the appointment as Minister of Public Order of the notorious General Zervas predict an all out attempt to crush the guerrilla bands and E.A.M., which will risk precipitating a real civil war, unless some restraints are imposed. Without such restraints it could easily happen that within a few weeks a new situation will have arisen in Greece which will make the Commission's report out of date before it can be discussed in the Security Council.

8. The Athens Government, urged on by the Royalist and Conservative Press, relies on its belief that whatever difficulties it gets into the United Kingdom and United States of America must in the last resort always support it in order to prevent Greece from falling into the Eastern European Communist Bloc.

9. I have met most of the Members of the Cabinet and am not much impressed by their competence or breadth of outlook. Left to itself the Government is unlikely to do much to stop either the trend towards political extremism in the country or the present disastrous economic drift. British missions are well regarded but they remain purely advisors and on the whole the British seem to have found no way of imposing reasonable efficiency in the administration or practical steps towards political reconciliation. The King apparently takes no effective part in the direction of policy.

10. There is now every indication of much more active interest by the United States of America in Greek affairs than has been the case hitherto. Reports sent back to the State Department by the American delegate on the Commission have stressed the unsatisfactory internal conditions in Greece, and the report of the United States Economic Mission which has just finished its enquiry here will also contain severest criticism of the incompetent and shortsighted economic policy of the Government. As a result of these reports I understand that any financial help which the United States will give to Greece either directly or indirectly by way of assisting the British in their commitments will be linked with some strict conditions. The principal condition may be insistence on new elections at the latest by the autumn, to be prepared and held in a manner which will ensure the participation this time of all the left wing parties. Whether anything can be done meanwhile to broaden the composition of the Government is doubtful. Difficulties between certain personalities seem irreconcilable and in any case there is a noted lack of good party leaders. However, an assurance of new elections, if it can be got, will encourage moderate elements in the Government and will go a long way towards meeting the more legitimate demands of the extreme left, which believes, rightly or wrongly, that the ruling groups in Athens intend to exclude the left wing parties from sharing in the Government indefinitely, and tends, therefore more and more towards extreme courses.

11. I have formed the opinion myself that in these circumstances lies the best chance of the United Nations Commission to help to bring about some positive improvement in the political situation in this area.

1 Hood was in Greece but cables were routed through London.

2 Communist-controlled National Popular Liberation Army.

[AA : A1838,854/10/7, i]