130. Paper Prepared in the Department of State1

Cyprus Contingencies

The Problem

The problem is what we should do if the Geneva conference breaks off because the Turks insist that the northeastern third of Cyprus be ceded to Turkey as a precondition for further negotiations.


If the talks are broken off, there will almost certainly be meetings of the UN Security Council and of the NATO Council. In these meetings, there will be pressure on the Turks to refrain from military action to enforce their claim and on both sides to resume talks. If the Turks move out of the areas they currently hold to enforce their claim, they will be resisted by the Greek Cypriot National Guard. But, with over 30,000 Turkish troops on the island, resistance cannot be serious, or delay Turkish advances long.

If the Turks break out and do not halt soon, at some point the Greek Government is liable to attack Turkish forces. Turkey enjoys military preponderance everywhere, but frustration will force the Greeks to attack anyway, even with foreknowledge that they will lose. They cannot seriously reinforce on Cyprus, though they may move to do so, and are therefore likely to attack in Thrace.

There are therefore three contingencies: a breakoff of talks without a Turkish breakout on Cyprus; a Turkish breakout and hostilities on Cyprus without Greek-Turkish fighting elsewhere; and Greek-Turkish fighting outside Cyprus.

Our goal, as in July, should be to prevent Greek-Turkish hostilities and to get talks started. But the situation will be worse than in July—both governments will be passionately united, talking will appear to have been unproductive, and the Greeks will have no military option whatsoever on Cyprus, so that Thracian hostilities are more likely.

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The Soviet Angle

A breakdown of the Geneva talks and renewed hostilities on Cyprus will stimulate Soviet efforts to throw the crisis into the Security Council, where Moscow believes that it has a better chance of influencing its outcome. The Soviets have consistently criticized the Geneva venue and the Geneva declaration because they suspect the conference was seeking to arrange a partition of the island rather than to implement Resolution 353 of the Security Council.2

Given the circumstances, Moscow’s first priority at the UN will be to seek clear-cut public agreement in principle from Athens and Ankara to maintain Cyprus as a sovereign state on the basis of a new federal arrangement between the two national communities. Extracting such an agreement, however, poses monumental problems, the most pressing being time.

The Soviets have little ability to influence either Greek or Turkish actions quickly unless they opt either to assume a militantly threatening posture, i.e., seek to frighten the protagonists, or inject themselves directly by proposing a Tashkent-style mediation exercise. Given the NATO alignment and the likely repercussions of Soviet saber-rattling in the absence of a threat to USSR territory, we discount the prospect of resort to military posturing, i.e., maneuvers in the Balkans, at least until full-scale hostilities erupt in Thrace.

An offer to mediate would appear Moscow’s only feasible form of direct unilateral action at the moment, if indeed the USSR wants to become directly involved.

The Soviets have indications the Greeks might be responsive; they probably have doubts about the Turks.

The Turks, for their part, are acutely aware of Soviet objections to the thrust of their maneuvering on Cyprus; they would welcome Soviet background support but not Soviet involvement on the scene. In any event, Moscow will not proffer its services as mediator unless it has assurances from both sides that the services are acceptable. There is no such assurance at this point.

It would not be unrealistic to assume that the Soviets have already dangled some suggestion along this line before Athens. We doubt they have yet gone so far as to “promise” to keep the Bulgarian front quiet—or unquiet—in support of Greece. They probably have assured Athens, [Page 427] however, that Warsaw Pact intentions are related to preservation of an independent Cyprus, and they certainly have passed similar hints to the Turks by now. We would not rule out additional hints to Turkey that the USSR might even consider, in extremis, moving some of its naval vessels between Cyprus and Turkey.

Expectations that a Soviet mediation effort à la Tashkent will collapse on Turkish intransigence raises prospects of exacerbated Soviet- Turkish relations. However, it also raises prospects of a Greek-Soviet rapprochement as a consequence of the collapse.

Moscow could conceivably attempt to avoid the former and still gain the latter advantage by publicly proposing joint US-Soviet mediation. In that event, the US would have to decide.

  • —whether we want to participate in such a joint venture;
  • —if so, whether we think we could manipulate it to our advantage by neutralizing the possibility that it might result in closer Greek- Soviet relations.

Given time, the Soviets have some diplomatic assets at their disposal.

They were skillful in managing their relations with Ankara during the initial period of the Turkish intervention by maintaining a posture of benevolent neutrality. Strains developed only when Moscow began to suspect that Ankara was seeking partition rather than federation.

The Soviets could now try to convince the Turks that Ankara’s national interests would be best served by accepting a formula acceptable to the USSR, thereby assuring themselves of continued Soviet support on this issue as well as wider Turkish interests. Whether Turkey would be responsive to such an approach now is moot.

Athens is actually far less of a diplomatic problem since Karamanlis is already perceiving the advantage of striking a deal with the Soviets. Furthermore, Greece still formally backs the return of Makarios to Cyprus, which dovetails with Moscow’s own official position. We do not believe the Soviets will interject the Makarios factor at this stage of the crisis, nor attempt to diddle behind the scenes with the Archbishop, but we expect them to be keeping their channels of communication to His Beatitude open.

Contingency 1: Breakoff of Talks without a Turkish Breakout on Cyprus

In the event of the break-up or suspension of the Geneva talks and the concomitant threat of resumed military action either on Cyprus or in a wider Greek-Turk context, it will be important to develop urgently means of engaging the Governments of Turkey and Greece in discussions which have a chance of delaying military action which could rapidly escalate to Greek-Turkish conflict or possibly UK clashes with Turkey on [Page 428] Cyprus. Options which might achieve this are considered in their order of effectiveness. However, it should be borne in mind that the possibility of carrying out the more effective options decreases as hostilities begin. The less effective options may still be possible after the outbreak of hostilities but their impact becomes even more questionable.

Option I: EcevitKaramanlis Meeting

Such a meeting, possibly in a third country, would make it difficult for the armed forces on either side to initiate action. There might be merit to having the meeting occur in a neutral (Vienna, Geneva) location or even in a non-aligned (Cairo, Malta) location to diminish the impression of a NATO or “guarantor powers” approach. From the US standpoint it would be best to have the UK call urgently for the meeting if the Geneva talks appear to be unsalvageable. The US would then support the meeting, referred to in Ecevit’s July 28 proposal of such a meeting. The UK could encourage the agreed host country to offer facilities. Ranking UK and US (Sisco, Hartman) officials and possibly Greek and Turk Cypriot leaders should be on location in this scenario to help maintain contact.

Option II: Geneva Recess Plus NATO Council

Rather than let the Geneva talks fail, it would be better to have the participants agree to a recess during which a NATO Council meeting could be called to deal with the danger to the alliance of threatened hostilities between two member states. This would provide a potential delaying mechanism and avoid abandoning entirely the Geneva Guarantor Powers framework. This framework now has a useful status and recognition in SC resolution 353 but the Soviets will oppose reviving it in any future SC resolution in view of the threat to future Cypriot independence and non-alignment which they see in an agreement by the Guarantor Powers (they don’t like the Geneva Declaration). The NATO Council would not address the Cyprus problem per se (since that could immediately trigger a Soviet call for an SC meeting and resolution) but would convene specifically to examine a threatened weakening of the alliance caused by non-NATO related troop movements by Greece and Turkey.

Option III: Geneva Recess plus Invitation to SYG

On the same rationale as Option II, the Geneva talks would be recessed and the SYG asked to mediate between the parties. This could be a time-buying device but would probably only produce appeals by the SYG to us to restrain the Turks. It is unlikely that the SYG could be any more successful than Foreign Secretary Callaghan with the parties and, as far as the Turks are concerned, he starts off with two strikes against him. However, if faced by a possible Soviet-sponsored Security Council mission [Page 429] by three to five governments to Cyprus, (see Option V) an SYG role might be a lesser evil. Very possibly, the Turks would accept this idea only if it came about in this way, and by that time it might be too late to be effective. This option has the advantage of putting a prestigious office into play, a useful deterrent which does not, however, get the parties into direct negotiating interaction.

Option IV: Geneva Recess plus Presidential Emissary

In this option, the Geneva framework would again be preserved if at all possible, with an American intermediary volunteering, at the request of the parties, to revive negotiating momentum and buy time. The difficulty with this option is that it does not engage high-level officials face to face and runs the risk of the same kinds of delay and refusal which were used to frustrate Under Secretary Sisco’s bid in Ankara on July 19. The seriousness of the present situation would suggest that we would have to go back at least to the level of Sisco—or perhaps to a Presidential emissary who knows where the military and money come from in Congress (Laird? A current confidant of President Ford?). Assistant Secretary Hartman’s involvement with the present Geneva round would appear to rule him out if this round breaks down. This option also fails to engage the parties directly and has the added disadvantage of weakening the guarantor powers framework and putting the US in the middle, responsible in the eyes of both sides and their peoples for less-than-optimum compromises.

Option V: Security Council Action

Regardless of our ability to launch one of the foregoing options, the Security Council (SC) is likely to be convened if the Geneva Talks break down. Although we would not favor this, it can happen—either by the Greeks or Cypriots appealing the Turkish ultimatum, the UK reporting its findings on the Geneva talks and emphasizing their temporary recess, or the Soviets convening the SC as SC President for August.

The Soviet approach would be to (1) downplay the Zurich–London agreements (which so far have general mention in the main SC resolutions on Cyprus); (2) call for withdrawal of all non-Cypriot forces —(implying UK, Greek, and Turk); (3) play up the “Government of Cyprus” (meaning the non-aligned Makarios rather than the Greek and Turk Cypriot communities); and (4) assert the role of the Council in defending Cypriot independence against threatened dismemberment, perhaps through appointment of a SC mission to Cyprus. The Greeks, however, will not wish to see the Zurich–London treaty structure altogether abandoned; rather they would prefer reinterpretation to produce the withdrawal of the Turks—or at minimum their withdrawal to the July 22 cease-fire lines. This will somewhat inhibit the Soviet effort.

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We should encourage the UK to propose, with our support, an alternative way of maintaining the negotiating momentum (e.g. one of the first four options) in lieu of a Security Council mission. The US–UK success in blunting Soviet efforts will, in the last analysis, depend on the credibility and acceptability of the chosen option which should, in the event of a SC meeting, be mentioned, endorsed, or encouraged by the SC if a resolution is being negotiated. Given the membership of the Council—Iraq and Mauretania as Moslem states will not be automatically aligned against the Turks—there is a good chance of neutralizing a Soviet effort in this manner.

The Soviets (possibly with Greek support) may be tempted at some point to try for a special Emergency Session of the General Assembly—where non-aligned votes are plentiful—especially if fighting breaks out again. A Special UNGA has no advantages for us and should be discouraged if at all possible with the argument that the Council continues to be effectively seized of the matter. If it should convene, it is unlikely to be able to act in a time-frame relevant to the present stage of the crisis and in any event the Turks will not consider its action binding.

Although we would not favor going to the Security Council as an option in and of itself, in the event of the breakdown of the Geneva talks, we should consider a preemptive move to the Council either alone or with the British once we select one of the previous four options. In this way we might get the Council to focus on and endorse the preferred option, thus inhibiting other efforts in the Council which could be unhelpful.

Contingency 2: Turkish Breakout and Hostilities on Cyprus without Greek- Turkish Fighting Elsewhere

Our major goal should be to prevent extension of the fighting, while working to keep the Soviets out of the picture.

Our tactics will depend partly on previous activity:

  • If the UK is still out front and U.S. bargaining leverage is still intact, the United States can more effectively urge restraint on both Greeks and Turks.
  • If a Karamanlis/Ecevit meeting and/or a Sisco trip, designed to gain time and get the parties talking again, have not taken place, they may still be available, although this is uncertain.

To prevent extension of the conflict, we should take four immediate steps:

  • —make high-level representations to both sides: this will involve a more forward U.S. public posture.
  • warn both sides, as in July, that they cannot indulge in warfare with an open military pipeline to us.
  • interject Waldheim and Luns (and possibly SACEUR on a personal basis), to counterbalance our more forward role.
  • move U.S. naval elements into position to evacuate American citizens from Greece and Turkey (and to apply pressure).

To inhibit Soviet interference, we should:

  • renew our public and private warnings against outside interference, while assuring the Soviets we are not seeking outcomes which injure their interests;
  • renew our commitment to Cyprus independence and press the Turks to do likewise: this deprives the Soviets of a legal basis for interference, and pressure on the Turks could constrain the Greeks from seeking Soviet support;
  • advertise our support for the UN role, and bottle the Soviets up in the UN.

We must recognize that the more desperate the Greeks, and the larger the UN and NATO roles, the greater the scope for Soviet meddling.The Soviets are already edging closer to Greece, and the Greeks are sure to be vociferous in the UN; an active NATO role will fire Soviet fears of NATOization of Cyprus. On the one hand, an active Soviet “tilt” towards Greece would isolate the Turks completely and enhance our leverage with them, but on the other hand it could leave Greece open to long-term Soviet influence. The best antidote to Soviet meddling if fighting begins on the Island would therefore be visible U.S. restraint on the Turks. Only you can choose the moment to apply it.

Finally, if all else fails, we should consider promoting a Foreign Ministers’ meeting under NATO auspices.

Contingency 3: War between Greece and Turkey

If Greek-Turkish hostilities break out, the best outcome we can hope for will be a strengthened partition situation on Cyprus, Greek honor saved, and both sides still in NATO and ready to begin talking again. At worst, the Turks will have imposed partition of the Island, the Greeks (whether Karamanlis or his over-thrower) will be humiliated, NATO will be shattered, and the Soviets hopping mad.

Our goal would have to be a ceasefire, with resumption of talks secondary, and it would be essential to exclude the Soviets and keep the UN role to a minimum.

In a war, the Turks have the capacity to “take” Cyprus (although occupation would amount to daytime control of roads in many areas), to take some Greek islands off their coast, and to advance in Thrace after initial losses.

In a war, the Soviets are likely to side diplomatically with the Greeks, who might well announce withdrawal from NATO. This would leave Turkey isolated in the international community.

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The immediate steps we would have to take would be:

  • evacuation of American citizens;
  • —[1 line not declassified];
  • mobilization of all “friendly” means (NATO and European) to obtain a ceasefire.

In practice, a ceasefire could only be obtained by the exercise of extreme U.S. pressure on Turkey to limit its war aims. While we should also urge restraint on the Greeks, we should above all:

  • —encourage the Turks to stop at the Kyrenia–Nicosia–Famagusta line on Cyprus;
  • —encourage them to assume the defensive in other areas, i.e. not to bomb the Greek mainland and not to take Greek islands which will become irredenta; and
  • —move U.S. naval forces between Greeks and Turks.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 123, Geopolitical File, Cyprus, Chronological File. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Thomas Simons (S/P), John Baker (IO/UNP), and Martha Mautner and Igor Belousovitch (INR/RES). Cleared by John Day (EUR/SE). The Cyprus Working Group sent the paper to McCloskey on August 13. (Ibid.) The Cyprus Task Force was disbanded on August 22.
  2. The Geneva Declaration was signed on July 30 by the U.K., Greek, and Turkish Foreign Ministers at the conclusion of the first round of meetings at Geneva. It called for a ceasefire and security measures, implementation of UNSC resolution 353, and restoration of peace and constitutional government in Cyprus.