164. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Cyprus


  • The Secretary
  • The Under Secretary
  • Phillips Talbot, Assistant Secretary, NEA
  • Harlan Cleveland, Assistant Secretary, IO
  • Gordon D. King, Officer-in-Charge, Cyprus Affairs
  • Mr. Galo Plaza, United Nations Mediator

The Secretary showed Mr. Galo Plaza a copy of the Turk-Soviet joint communiqué2 and noted that the Soviets appear to have gone further in supporting the Turkish position on the inviolability of treaties than we had in the joint communiqué issued after the Inonu visit to Washington. The Secretary then noted that Cyprus Foreign Minister Kyprianou said when here some weeks ago before his Moscow visit that he would tell the Soviets point blank that the Greek-Cypriots want enosis eventually. The Secretary expressed the thought that the Soviet reaction to Kyprianou’s statement together with the tone of the Turk-Soviet communiqué could be somewhat sobering for the Greek-Cypriots.

Mr. Galo Plaza said that it is important to know what type of enosis is being discussed since Makarios’ definition is quite different from that of the Greeks. Plaza said that he had urged the Greek Government to sit down with Makarios and arrive at an agreed definition. He has the impression that Greece has pressed Makarios to arrive at such a definition with them, but that Makarios has successfully evaded an answer. Mr. Ball noted the former United States assumption that a strong pro-enosis line from Greece would arouse the latent enosis sentiment on the island and undercut Makarios, but he feels this is no longer possible. Galo Plaza agreed and said he considers Papandreou to be over confident regarding his ability to handle Makarios. He described Makarios as head and shoulders above any other Greek leader, in effect a “Mr. Cyprus” who was capable of running Greece as well. This was apparent from the beginning, Mr. Galo Plaza said, and had convinced him that he must work through Makarios and do nothing behind his back. Makarios told him the day before Tuomioja died that, even if the Geneva talks [Page 327] brought forth a proposed solution very much along the lines that Makarios himself wanted, he would still reject it since it was being applied from outside. In line with his determination to work through Makarios, Plaza noted that, as soon as he reached New York after his last round of talks, he wrote the Archbishop a full report; and the Archbishop was very flattered. Plaza said that he made the point with Markarios after the Cairo Non-aligned Conference3 that the Archbishop had to be flexible since the Turk-Cypriots were cornered and he alone had room to maneuver; Makarios agreed. Earlier, Plaza explained, he had had a similar experience with Makarios in connection with the economic blockade after Kokkina-Mansoura. He told Makarios that it was not possible to hold a people under siege in the twentieth century, and that he must call the blockade off. The Archbishop then personally wrote his five-point program to ease the economic blockade and offer amnesty to the Turks. Makarios, Plaza noted, is always alone and all decisions are made on his own. He now appears more flexible and realized that he has been very lucky to date. He wants to attend the United Nations General Assembly, but indicates that he will check with Plaza first before deciding to attend and that he is willing to do whatever Plaza recommends is best for the mediation. Plaza feels that Makarios wants to be the one to reach a settlement. He also feels, however, that if Makarios had from the beginning exercised the good behavior he has shown in recent weeks, the problem would long since been solved.

Galo Plaza explained that his own plans are to return tomorrow, November 10, to Nicosia where he will have very concrete talks with Makarios. He will then proceed to Ankara, Athens and London before returning to New York in time for the opening of the General Assembly. He had been thinking of making an interim report at that time, but has given up the idea. Now he plans to report orally to the Secretary General in January. The report, he feels, will reflect neither total agreement nor total disagreement among the parties. It will contain his findings and his recommendations for a solution.

Concerning Turkey and the Turk-Cypriots, Plaza noted that Inonu and the Turkish leadership told him very firmly that they must find a way out of the Cyprus problem, but that it must be on honorable grounds. Inonu described Turkish objectives to Plaza as being, first, an honorable way out, second, Turkish security and, third, the welfare of the Turk-Cypriots, with the latter being much the weakest point as demonstrated by the Government of Turkey commitment on the Kyrenia road without prior consultations with the Turk-Cypriots. Plaza said that through most of his consultations to date he had done more listening [Page 328] than talking except in Ankara where the Turks began speaking of separation of the two communities. Plaza said he told the Turks that he was completely opposed to any physical separation of the communities in a federation scheme and that he would not accept partition as a basis for discussion since he considered a Greek-Turkish border through Cyprus, with Greek-Turkish relations dependent on the unpredictable and volatile Cypriots, as completely unrealistic.

Plaza said he asked Inonu, and later the Athens Government, for views on an independent, non-aligned, demilitarized Cyprus. Both the Government of Turkey and Government of Greece said this would leave a weakened Cyprus which would be prey to many outsiders. The Turks, however, said that this would be acceptable from the point of view of their security. In answer to Mr. Talbot’s inquiry, Plaza said that such an arrangement might be similar to the Austrian example and that it could, in fact, be based on an international agreement which would include the Soviets. The Turks, he noted, are definitely against instant enosis which would mean war with Greece. The British asked him why it should not be possible to bring about enosis by a takeover of the island by Grivas and the 10,000 Greek troops there. Plaza told them there was not a chance of this; Makarios has all the political power and could defeat any such move. Concerning enosis, Plaza noted, the United Nations itself could not write off a member state but could certainly accept such an arrangement if the countries concerned joined of their own accord.

The Secretary asked if it were far afield to think that the parties might start on the basis of the London/Zurich Agreements and proceed to amend them into something more workable. Plaza reacted negatively to this. He noted that both sides have now firmly rejected London/Zurich as a basis for the future and that the United Nations is trying to find a new basis for a political settlement; any attempt to return to London/Zurich would start the battle again.

Plaza re-emphasized that the Turks are weak in this dispute and would settle for much less than the goals they first spoke of. They must find an honorable way out, not for the fact of Turkish public opinion, but in order to satisfy the Turkish armed forces.

Galo Plaza noted that the Greeks have spoken of giving the Turks one of their small islands near Cyprus for a military base under a 50 year lease. The Greeks have also, he noted, spoken to the British about the possibility of one of the British bases on Cyprus being committed to NATO and shared with the Turks. Plaza checked this with the new British Government in London. The British did not reject the idea and, in fact, said that they are willing to go as far as necessary to reach a solution.

Mr. Cleveland asked if Galo Plaza’s recommendations might include suggesting several alternative solutions to the Cypriot people in a referendum; he asked specifically if such alternative solutions could [Page 329] include enosis. Plaza said that it could since it would be the choice of the people and not a proposal by the United Nations.

The Secretary asked if the Turks might agree to participate with Greece in some sort of defense board concept. Plaza expressed doubt and noted that the Turks and Greeks have forces on the island now which show no evidence whatsoever of cooperation. He expressed the feeling that independence must come as the first step but that first Makarios and the Greeks must decide what they mean by enosis. Many complications lie ahead even before a firm definition can be reached.

The Secretary asked if Galo Plaza advised the United States Government to lie low for the present. Plaza stated that this was desirable to a point, but that United States was also needed with the Turks. When the Secretary pointed out that we have used much of our capital with the Turks through past intercession, Plaza expressed understanding but felt that efforts must be made to impress on Ankara the need to be realistic. He noted that they had first told him they must have population separation with the Turkish communities getting 30% of the land to correspond to their percentage of land ownership. Later Ankara dropped this to 20% and still later to a base area with enough space for some Turk-Cypriots in the event of another crisis.

Galo Plaza expressed the conviction that, with reference to the Turks, speed is important now because of Inonu’s age. The Turks become nervous, he noted, whenever Inonu is ill since there is no one strong enough to make decisions if he goes.

The Secretary said that, if Turkey is trying to find a way out of the Cyprus dispute, it may find it earlier without any United States involvement. Inonu could be undermined if he appeared again to be responding to United States pressure. Furthermore, such pressure could cause an adverse reaction in the Turkish military.

Galo Plaza referred then to Geneva and said that the Acheson effort created the impression the United States and not the United Nations had the main initiative. Mr. Ball pointed out that the Geneva exercise did, however, deflate Turkish demands significantly. He noted further that we have suffered in our relations with Turkey because of their reaction to Geneva so that anything we do now could simply make it tougher for the United Nations. The Secretary observed in passing that since things change so rapidly these days, a 50 year lease on a base would seem long enough for an 80-year old Prime Minister. Plaza stressed the view that in any case a settlement involving base rights was not really satisfactory since bases are becoming anachronisms. He noted, however, that King Constantine said he had three times asked Makarios if he could accept the commitment of one of the British bases to NATO. Makarios did not reject this nor did the British. In response to the Secretary’s question, Plaza said this could include Turkish soldiers and specifically the Turkish [Page 330] contingent on the base. He said this is an idea that he is trying to sell to the Turks. He hopes to persuade them that this is better than a sovereign base. It would appear not as a concession from Greece, but as something which the Turks themselves had won. In any case, he felt on the basis of his discussions with the Turks to date that they view their position more realistically than he had expected.

When Mr. Ball asked if the Cyprus Constitution required that if the British give up their bases they must be turned over to the Government of Cyprus, Plaza said that this would not complicate NATO-izing the base since it would in any case be done through Makarios.

The Secretary asked how the Department could best keep in touch with the Mediator. Plaza suggested that he could best continue his contacts through Ambassador Belcher. He noted, however, that he badly lacks intelligence reports and would appreciate assistance in this regard. The Secretary agreed that we could help provided the information was not passed to the Cypriots, Greeks or Turks. He cautioned also that we could not guarantee the accuracy of our reports.

In conclusion, Plaza stressed the importance of keeping the mediation effort within the United Nations as a United Nations initiative. He said the Americans are willing to take the blame and consequences of Geneva; he would take the blame for the mediation from now on. He realized that the United States is reluctant to press the Turks, but asked that we support him when the Turks ask our opinion of his approaches.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 23–8 CYP. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by King and approved in S on November 20.
  2. Not found.
  3. The Conference of Heads of State or Government of Non-Aligned Countries was held in Cairo October 5–10.