175. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • United States & Government of Cyprus Positions on the Cyprus Problem


  • United States:
    • The Acting Secretary
    • John D. Jernegan, Acting Assistant Secretary, NEA
    • Robert Anderson, U
    • Gordon D. King, Cyprus Affairs, NEA/GTI
  • Cypriot:
    • Foreign Minister Spyros Kyprianou
    • Ambassador Zenon Rossides
[Page 357]

The Foreign Minister called on the Acting Secretary at his own request in order to exchange views on the Cyprus problem before his departure for Nicosia next week. During the hour long conversation, the following points emerged:


Prospects for the UNGA. Kyprianou expressed pessimism over prospects for the General Assembly. The Acting Secretary agreed that the chances for the General Assembly are not good, that it is likely to adjourn on or about Monday February 8, and that the adjournment may be for several weeks.2 He inquired about the plans of the Government of Cyprus.

The Foreign Minister noted that the Government of Cyprus has been hoping for a General Assembly debate to strengthen its positions and that of the Mediator. With the likelihood of an adjournment, Kyprianou felt that it is now necessary for him to return to Cyprus for consultations.


United States Position. Kyprianou asked how the United States feels now about the Cyprus problem.

The Acting Secretary stated that there is no change in the United States position. The United States, he noted, has always hoped for a resolution of the problem through discussions. A solution cannot be reached otherwise. The United States has long been skeptical that the General Assembly debate would make a contribution to the settlement. The United States position regarding a settlement is the same, that the parties must work out a settlement themselves. We are not prepared to dictate the solution. We tried to help in Geneva and it did not work. We have no plans and no proposals.

The Foreign Minister rephrased his question, asking what, after the experiences of the past year, the United States sees as a solution. Negotiations, he stated, have been tried and failed and would be of no use now unless there were some hope for a settlement.

When Mr. Ball noted that no talks have been tried since last year in January in London, Kyprianou said that negotiations have been repeatedly tried over many years. But what, he pressed, is the United States view of a solution? The positions of the parties concerned are well known: the Turks favor federation; Cyprus wants unfettered independence, majority rule, and self-determination. Cyprus knows, he said, that the United States wants an agreed solution but does the United States have some advice on a solution?

Mr. Ball observed that he could only tell the Foreign Minister what he had told Erkin. The treaties are still on the books. No one denies that they are not very workable. When this is the case, the only thing to do is to [Page 358] get together and talk. We told Turkey that we have no solution. Furthermore, a United States solution would not be useful. Because of the power and size of the United States, even if we made a proposal it would be taken as an attempt to coerce the parties concerned; so we refuse to make such a proposal. When we asked Mr. Acheson to offer advice to the Mediator, he was acting as an individual who put forward ideas which were not United States positions but were intended to move the parties toward agreement. He served as a catalyst. However, the effort did not work and is now academic. At present, there is nothing we can contribute by choosing a solution. On the contrary, we would be doing a disservice.

Mr. Jernegan stated that another facet is also important: countries which have made clear their views on a solution all have a direct national interest in the matter: the Greeks want enosis, the Soviets oppose enosis, the Turks want federation, etc. However, the United States by the nature of things is not directly concerned with any particular solution. We do not support enosis, nor do we condemn it. We do not support federation, nor do we condemn it. We want only to have peace and stability in the area.

The Foreign Minister insisted that there must, however, be a lasting solution. In order for it to be lasting, it must be acceptable to the majority of the Cyprus population. The majority does not want federation. Even a considerable number of Turk-Cypriots do not want to divide the island. But to say that all the parties concerned have a veto means that no solution is possible. In this context, the United States should press for the right solution. The United States cannot take a stand contrary to its principles. Others may do so, but not the United States. The situation only becomes more and more dangerous when the belief is accepted that the various parties have a veto. Turkey, for example, is not hurting because of the dispute. Neither for that matter is Greece. Therefore, they can afford to carry on and, as long as Turkey holds to its present course, no solution is possible.


The Soviet Position. Kyprianou said that it is wrong to believe that the Soviet position against enosis will make the Greeks or Greek-Cypriots anti-Soviet. They will instead again think it is the fault of the United States for not taking a firm stand. He asked why the United States is quiet over Turkey’s approaches to the Soviet Union. When Mr. Ball pointed out that the United States did not object when the Government of Cyprus approached the Soviets, Kyprianou maintained that the Government of Cyprus quickly learned of the United States attitude through the American press. He said that, by contrast, even when Turkey withdrew from the MLF, there was no United States criticism. Mr. Jernegan pointed out that the change in Turk relations with the Soviets amounted to no more than a slight rapprochement to which the United States could not object.

[Page 359]

The Foreign Minister said that the danger in this development is that it may lead to a competition between Turkey and Cyprus concerning the Soviets. If the tendency is to make the Soviets central to the dispute, each party may attempt to bid higher for Soviet support. Mr. Ball said there is no doubt that the Government of Turkey is willing to play up any kind of support it can get. However, he noted, the Turk-Soviet conversations, as the United States sees them, are not very far-reaching. We were surprised, in fact, at the Soviet statement regarding federation. Mr. Jernegan reiterated that the development is not a major element and expressed its primary importance as giving somewhat more encouragement to the Turks.

Kyprianou stated his belief that the Soviet position is simple. Moscow, he felt, supports the Government of Cyprus up to the point of enosis. If the Government of Cyprus says that it abandons enosis as an objective, the Soviets would be 100% on the Government of Cyprus side. Only here do Soviet interests coincide with Turkey’s.


Turkish Objectives. The Foreign Minister maintained that in the long run it is not even in Turkey’s interest to forget enosis. At present, he said, the Turks oppose everything Cyprus wants, but their basic interests would not prohibit enosis. He then professed to be puzzled as to Turkey’s aims. He insisted that the Government of Cyprus really does not know, even though the Turks talk about federation and partition.

The Acting Secretary suggested that the Government of Cyprus ask them. Kyprianou hurriedly stated that the Mediator has been asking and cannot find out. He asked if it were prestige the Turks wanted, or land. He opined that the Turks know it is not possible to partition the island. He said that minority safeguards through the United Nations could be accepted in the Government of Cyprus. As far as East-West relations are concerned, Cyprus will choose enosis through self-determination and enosis will solve all problems. Therefore, he concluded, it is difficult to know what else Turkey could want.

Mr. Ball stated that, in a situation such as this, many deep emotional feelings, some rational, some not, are involved. Pride comes into the picture, national prestige, concern for the Turk-Cypriots, etc. It is very difficult to say that, objectively, the best interests of Turkey or Greece or Cyprus lie in a particular formula; this has been tried but is not what the parties concerned find acceptable. As far as Turkey’s desires are concerned, Mr. Ball suggested that much depends on the manner in which a solution is worked out. Turkey might accept solution “A” at one time and not at another. He noted that, once last summer, there was a moment when it appeared Turkey might accept mere tokens to save its prestige, involving the lease of a small bit of land for a base, coupled with enosis. Mr. Ball said that he believes there is currently an enormous desire in [Page 360] Turkey to get rid of this problem. It has been here a long time and has become a domestic liability for the Government of Turkey.


Talks between the parties. The Acting Secretary expressed the view that a quiet kind of conversation over a long period of time would be useful. He noted that talks could perhaps involve Cyprus, Greece and Turkey with someone from the Turk-Cypriot community and suggested that it would be far better to enter into discussions than to let the situation continue. Mr. Jernegan added that discussions should involve some kind of quiet contacts perhaps between the Government of Cyprus and the Government of Turkey, and should be secret bargaining sessions to discover if the first positions of the parties are final.

Mr. Ball expressed the opinion that Turkey’s first position is not final. He argued that an undertaking to hold discussions would in itself be useful, even if it fails. Such discussions, he pointed out, should not be gone through quickly, and in the meantime it would help for reasonable stability to continue on the island.

The Foreign Minister contended that the Turk-Cypriots have been building their strength during this period of calm. The Acting Secretary responded that some new tensions have arisen and mentioned specifically President Makarios’ election proposal and the upcoming Turkish contingent troop rotation problem. These, he said, could make the situation very rough, but nevertheless talks could be quietly entered into and quietly held between Cyprus and Turkey, or among Cyprus, Turkey and Greece.

Ambassador Rossides criticized the London-Zurich agreement and suggested that a real solution is one which will enable the Greek-Cypriots and Turk-Cypriots to live together. He argued that divisiveness must not be insisted on and predicted that, if Turkey does insist, again there will be trouble. Federation, he said, is all right in a situation where it is necessary to bring parts together into a whole, but in Cyprus federation would mean breaking up that which is already whole.

The Acting Secretary reiterated that the United States is not insisting on any particular solution, federation or otherwise, but feels that since the island is quiet now, this is a chance for profitable talks; they hold the only hope. Mr. Jernegan suggested that the Government of Cyprus might find a basis for satisfying the Turks without physical separation. Ambassador Rossides agreed. Mr. Ball suggested that such a possibility should not be excluded. He reiterated his thought that in a quiet atmosphere, over a period of time, Turkey might not stick to its original position. However, he stated, outsiders should stay out, including even the British. The Soviets should stay out as well, he added, and the United States.

Mr. Jernegan noted that the attitude of all the parties has changed in the last few months; it is now clear that anything which is acceptable to [Page 361] Turkey and to the Greek-Cypriots would be acceptable to everyone else. Kyprianou objected that some differences between Turkey and the Turk-Cypriots are now apparent. He expressed the opinion that it would be helpful if agreement could be reached between Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom to approve whatever the Greek-Cypriots and Turk-Cypriots would work out. Both Mr. Ball and Mr. Jernegan expressed strong doubts that either Turkey or the Turk-Cypriots would agree to such an arrangement; Mr. Jernegan added that, if the Government of Cyprus worked something out with the Turk-Cypriots, Turkey might possibly accept it after some study.

Mr. Ball emphasized that his advice to the Foreign Minister about entering into talks he had already given to the Turkish Government and that he would willingly give it to the Greek Government. The Foreign Minister stated that the Government of Cyprus’ fear has always been and still is that it cannot get a lasting and proper solution if a country outside Cyprus has a veto. He termed this “always a mistake”. During negotiations back in the 1950’s, he contended, the matter could have remained a colonial issue but the United Kingdom brought in Greece and Turkey. Cyprus, he said, is now trying to overcome that mistake. The Government of Cyprus feels that if a solution were definitely in sight, it would welcome negotiations. However, it has reservations about abandoning principles when it knows that negotiations will fail.

The Acting Secretary reiterated that the only way to find out is to try. He stated that if one tries to solve the problem on the basis of abstractions, opposing abstractions cancel each other out. A good deal of pragmatism, he suggested, is the best approach; the best way to find a solution is to look for one and the best way to look for one is to talk.


The Mediator. The Foreign Minister remarked rather wistfully that if the Mediator’s preferred solution were only known, talks might be more hopeful. Mr. Ball expressed doubt that the Mediator is in as good a position to look for a solution as the Government of Cyprus is. Mr. Jernegan pointed out that the Mediator working alone could be caught between strongly opposing positions, shuttling back and forth between the parties; under such circumstances, the talks might die. It would be better, Mr. Jernegan added, if the Government of Cyprus and the Turks talked together.

The Acting Secretary suggested further that the Mediator might be most useful if Cyprus and Turkey and Greece had representatives located somewhere with the Mediator on hand to help.

Situation on the island. Mr. Jernegan noted that two issues have revived tensions on the island, the Turk contingent rotation and the problem of another Red Crescent shipment. He expressed the view that the negative attitude of the Government of Cyprus on these matters could destroy the present relative calm. He questioned very seriously if this [Page 362] Government of Cyprus action is worthwhile. Kyprianou described the second issue as a relatively minor one. The Government of Cyprus, he noted, has allowed all previous Red Crescent shipments in free even though everything in them was available on the island and Cypriot merchants were angry with the Government. As a result of Government of Cyprus leniency, this is tending to become an established practice. But with regard to the issue of the rotation, he said, a question of principle is involved. The Government of Cyprus questions the very presence of the contingent. The last time the Government of Cyprus agreed not to oppose rotation, it turned out that the Turks sent out 500 Turk-Cypriot students and brought in 500 Turkish soldiers. When Mr. Jernegan objected that there was United Nations supervision of the last rotation, the Foreign Minister insisted that the United Nations could not possibly tell whether or not such a thing happened. The Government of Cyprus, however, knows it as a fact and it makes the problem very difficult. Mr. Jernegan suggested a pragmatic view that even if true, it is a small matter compared to the obstacle the Government of Cyprus refusal raises to a final settlement.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Cyprus, Vol. 16, Secret. Drafted by King and approved in U on February 16.
  2. The General Assembly recessed on February 8.