157. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Cyprus


  • Greek
  • H.E. Dimitri Bitsios, Greek Foreign Minister
  • E. F. Phimios Stoforopoulos, Greek Chef de Cabinet
  • US
  • The Secretary of State
  • Arthur A. Hartman, Assistant Secretary for European Affairs

Secretary: It’s good to have you here. I understand that you don’t like meetings this early in the morning and I very much appreciate your coming at this hour. I was very anxious to have this opportunity to talk to you prior to my next talks with the Turkish authorities.

Bitsios: I do not mind at all coming although I must say that I do prefer to do my work later in the day. In fact, I prefer the evenings for serious work. I met Gunes in New York and to break the ice I put a question to him—Are you going to be statesmanlike? He did not give a direct answer but I have the impression that he is a reasonable man.

[Page 533]

Secretary: I think you are right and, of course, we have advised Gunes to be as reasonable as possible.

Bitsios: He is not very experienced and we had the impression that he was under great stress in Geneva.

Secretary: I consider the second Geneva meeting to be the most incompetently handled negotiation I have ever witnessed. The British thought that they could achieve a settlement there. In fact, we had encouraged the Turks to make a proposal so that there would be something on which to negotiate but Callaghan was so mad at the Turks that he could not get the process moving.

Bitsios: On the whole I think that Gunes’ answer was satisfactory. He and Ecevit have their troubles with this extremist party but I think that your visit can be helpful in getting the CleridesDenktash talks going although I think Denktash is really quite reluctant to proceed. Denktash seems to be holding back and unwilling to come forward with specific proposals. We didn’t want to get Clerides to press him on the eve of your visit.

Secretary: It would be useful for me to know whether Athens can acknowledge any Turkish gestures or seem to be in agreement with them.

Bitsios: Our approach is quite different. CARAMANLIS’ position is well known and in this period before the elections he would like to see some movement on the CleridesDenktash talks. There is the question of the form of a federal government. What kind will it be? There is the Gunes’ plan for a large area in the north and several cantons in the south and then there is the Denktash plan for two large zones. We can accept a cantonal arrangement but not a bizonal one. We also would not like to see a large movement of people from the south to the north and vice versa.

Secretary: Clerides seems to be willing to accept a bizonal arrangement.

Bitsios: But after the Geneva meetings and the discussions with Makarios I think he now thinks that the best solution would be a cantonal arrangement.

Secretary: Makarios is now talking about ten to twenty cantons.

Bitsios: The Turks have proposed a large canton in the north and about five cantons in the south. Our position is that the area should be roughly equivalent to the percent of population.

Secretary: That was the kind of thinking that the Turks were willing to discuss in Geneva but no one else would talk about it. Let me describe the situation we face. We have been trying to obtain some concessions from the Turks which would help start the negotiating process.

[Page 534]

The actions of our Congress,2 however, have complicated the situation for Ecevit but he wants to do something. We have been thinking about getting agreement on some principles and some gestures which would enable the negotiations to go forward. Now what do the Turks want? They seem to want to have two autonomous areas and they wish to describe these areas geographically. With respect to gestures we believe we can get the Turks to consider opening the airport and allow some Greeks to return to the Nicosia Industrial Estate. We also might get some minor withdrawals in Turkish forces. The Turks want several things: first, some acknowledgment of the geographic basis for the negotiations; second, some statement on the future which they will interpret as bizonal and, third, having some Turks leave the SBA areas to go north. They would be prepared to go ahead with negotiations on this basis but without some counter concessions they will be tough. (At this point the Secretary showed Bitsios our November 4 draft and a little later on he showed Bitsios the tough Turkish counter draft on the principles.)3

Bitsios: What do you think the Turks really want?

Secretary: I think the Turks do not want me to leave without some concrete progress.

Bitsios: If the question of gestures was dropped, would it be a question of not getting any principles? You see, it is difficult for Clerides because Makarios is pressing very strongly for a cantonal arrangement and he cannot do anything which would seem to approve a bizonal solution. Anything that is done now to clarify this situation will complicate the negotiation and not help solve the problem.

Secretary: It is not absolutely necessary—we could just announce the beginning of political talks.

Bitsios: Just starting the talks could be difficult. If we could just manage to get Denktash to obtain some guidelines through secret diplomatic efforts—something that would direct Denktash to begin the talks.

Secretary: We would probably then have the same deadlock. If we could get an agreement that there would be discussions on the basis of geographic zones but not specify that this meant two areas. I think the best procedure would be, first, to get the negotiations started; second, I will make an approach to the Turks and then, third, we will discuss how to proceed. We are prepared to keep engaged and, perhaps, I could designate someone to help in this process. I had thought, for example, of David Bruce but now that he is going to NATO, perhaps I could find someone else.

[Page 535]

Bitsios: It is important that there be some voluntary move from the other side—some gesture. Then there could be something reciprocated. We are the party that has been hurt.

Secretary: There are several ways to get maximum gesture and then some reciprocity. You could leave open the possibility for you to suggest a cantonal system and for them to come back and suggest two zones.

Bitsios: What we need is a maximum gesture and, quite frankly, a withdrawal of 5 to 10,000 is not much of a gesture to us when there are 40 or perhaps 35,000 Turks on the island. We will throw all our weight on a cantonal plan. CARAMANLIS cannot accept a settlement which does not appear to be fair. He cannot take anything approaching partition. There is a deep psychological feeling on this.

Secretary: Our experience in getting a negotiation started is that you can’t use your maximum weight at first. Therefore, we think that in the first meeting the attempt should be made to get the two proposals on the table—bizonal vs. cantons. How many cantons are you going to ask for? Twenty?

Bitsios: No, we would be prepared to start from the Gunes plan but not from 35 percent of the island. We also do not want to have an exchange of population.

Secretary: You also want half of Famagusta.

Bitsios: Famagusta could be, at least in part, in a more modest northern zone. We can accept a larger area around the Turkish areas. This might help reduce the population problem. But we also have the question of the powers of the central government. We are looking to you to help.

Secretary: It is very difficult for me to help if anti-American positions are being taken by the Greek Government. I cannot perform miracles. There are no American proposals. What, I wonder, is whether or not it would be possible to have a general discussion and leave out the gestures.

Bitsios: You should be more optimistic.

Secretary: The only thing you want is acceptance of the cantonal system and that is out of the question to begin with.

Bitsios: There are other questions we should discuss, for example, bilateral Greek-Turkish relations but it is not wise for you to enter into those details. Perhaps, eventually, you could. Why don’t you ask them what their intent is after achieving a Cyprus settlement? If they say the rest can be put off into the future, that would be all right with us. If they enumerate other areas you should say that you don’t believe the Greeks will make serious concessions since they will have already done so on Cyprus. If the negotiations achieve some success, then perhaps these other issues can be discussed later.

[Page 536]

Secretary: First, we ought to consider putting these issues off for a number of years. Second, if there is some success, then perhaps we could link the two. Which would you prefer?

Bitsios: Obviously, it is better to settle all that can be settled.

Secretary: I don’t know what the balance should be. Perhaps we could link if there is a potential advantage to Greece.

Bitsios: Of course.

Secretary: We will try for separation however.

Bitsios: On the continental shelf, we have always wanted to negotiate on the basis of the 1958 treaty.4 Then we could negotiate as other countries have on the basis of law and not guns. Second, there is the question of the islands and their remilitarization and, third there is the question of the minorities problem dealt with on the basis of the Lausanne Treaty of 1923. There are a hundred thousand Turks remaining in Thrace while most of the Greeks have been displaced. Those Greeks who remain must be protected and perhaps the Turks should be exchanged.

Secretary: You mean exchange populations?

Bitsios: Yes, that perhaps would be easier but it would present a moral problem. It would also undermine Makarios’ view that there should be no exchange of population on Cyprus.

Secretary: Yes, if you are going to exchange populations, then the principle could be applied to Cyprus and the argument that the population should be separated there.

Bitsios: It would be very cynical of us to sacrifice this principle at the expense of Cyprus.

Secretary: What do you think we can get out of political talks?

Bitsios: Perhaps we could discuss some of these issues. The Turks want two zones. There is a question of how large the area will be. It must be below 30 percent. Denktash wants to be head of an autonomous Turkish administration. We think Denktash speaks more authoritatively than Gunes.

Secretary: We think Denktash follows Ankara. There are two roads we can take—either move to reduce the Turkish zone or try to get a cantonal solution but I must tell you that I do not believe a cantonal arrangement is now acceptable. It is a great pity that we could not have gotten this matter discussed seriously last August. The trouble was that Callaghan wanted to move too quickly because he thought a success would help them in their election. I have one worry in this situation and that is that every time I take a step I will become the [Page 537] whipping boy of the Greek Government. You have got Demetracopoulos working with Papandreou. By the way, the Soviet strategy is clear. First, they want to internationalize the whole problem. Second, they would not mind seeing a disaffection by Turkey from the West if the Turks break with us and that is what will happen if the Greek-Americans succeed.

Bitsios: The danger is always there but why will the Turks turn to the Soviets? We cannot accept gestures as a price for a bizonal solution.

Secretary: Can’t we talk of a federal solution—not bizonal and leave open whether there are two or five cantons?

Bitsios: But the Turks must learn that we won’t accept a bizonal arrangement.

Secretary: Should I tell this to the Turks that you won’t accept?

Bitsios: We accept a federal solution on a geographic basis. They should also open Famagusta and allow refugees to return there. We have given $20 million since July for the refugees.

Secretary: I don’t think they will take 40,000 back. I have been urging some gestures and you say that you can only talk about a cantonal solution.

Bitsios: Yes, but we are prepared to negotiate. Provided you make it clear to the other side that we don’t accept a bizonal solution, we are prepared to discuss the number of cantons and we feel the Gunes plan offers a good basis.

Secretary: Let us find a formula that both sides can understand. First, the Turks get some kind of federal solution. Second, the Greeks get some symbolic gesture and a process of negotiation. Let me emphasize to you that there is no law of nature that we have to be involved in this situation.

Bitsios: We all belong to the same family. In any case, this is not just one visit. If you fail to get agreement on a cantonal solution, we must try again.

Secretary: Well, we can try first to get some small gesture moving; second, to get agreement to start political talks; and, third, to discuss a federal solution on a geographic basis. While we have a benevolent attitude toward the cantonal plan I am not sure it will be accepted.

Bitsios: They will make public the fact of Greece yielding. They will say we have accepted the principle.

Secretary: You want us to argue in favor of the cantonal solution but there has to be some outcome—some movement.

Bitsios: If the Greeks have accepted a geographic basis before the elections, that’s as far as we can move.

Secretary: We support CARAMANLIS very strongly and want him to succeed.

[Page 538]

Bitsios: The best thing from our point of view would be a silent visit with the contacts continuing. We don’t want the Turks to announce anything.

Secretary: For the first ten days after the first attack everyone in the United States wanted us to attack Sampson and the junta but we did not wish to encourage the Turks to move.

Bitsios: No, but you have assets to use with the Turks.

Secretary: But these must be played in the negotiations.

Bitsios: You can tell the Turks that you have seen Bitsios and that you can confirm that the Greeks are prepared to envisage a process that will lead to geographic federation. Second, that you can’t go as far as saying bizonal for fear of it being taken as partition. Third, that they are looking at the bizonal problems and the enlargement of the areas and are prepared to start discussing on the basis of the Gunes plan but they cannot accept 35 percent of the island.

Secretary: But not 17 percent either. I don’t think we should ask for many gestures at this time. After we hear their view we can then consult again with you. What should we announce?

Bitsios: After you have had your meeting, perhaps you could send Hartman to tell us what the results were, particularly if you have succeeded in getting acceptance for a cantonal solution.

Secretary: The Turks negotiate like Israel. They sell every inch. Suppose the Turks accept not to have one large zone but rather something like the Gunes plan?

Bitsios: We could accept to have ______5 number of cantons and one could be fairly big.

Secretary: What is the difference between the first and second points? A geographic basis is in the first point and the second deals with the bizonal question. Why do we have to say that? On the general question of the visit, this can be a quiet visit. Maybe we should suggest that political talks start without preconditions. Would you be willing to come to the States?

Bitsios: Yes.

Secretary: American pressure can produce a settlement but there is going to be a massive fight on the aid restriction with respect to Turkey because that will mean that our pressure will do no good. You should know, however, that we will use our capital to help Greece. We know that a settlement will involve concessions but we will try to find a solution acceptable to Greece.

[Page 539]

Bitsios: The Greeks will understand your position but they must have some sign of sympathy, some impression that they will not be let down.

Secretary: I will be in touch with you through Kubisch. This will be a brief meeting with the Turks so that we should not expect too much. I will try to help move along the cantonal solution and to get political talks started and we may discuss some gestures.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Henry Kissinger Papers, Box CL 125, Geopolitical File, Cyprus, Chronological File. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Hartman. The breakfast meeting was held at the Hotel Excelsior in Rome while Kissinger was on a visit to meet with President Leone and Foreign Minister Moro and address the World Food Conference.
  2. This is a reference to the Congressional vote to cut off military aid to Turkey on October 17.
  3. Not attached and not found.
  4. See footnote 5, Document 67.
  5. Omission in the original.