194. Action Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Hartman) to Secretary of State Kissinger1


I. The Problem

The situation in the Eastern Mediterranean remains highly volatile. Greece and Turkey eye each other in the Aegean and over Cyprus as adversaries rather than as NATO allies. Cyprus itself remains divided, with both ethnic communities leery of real negotiations. Since all parties have looked to the United States with expectation in this election year, the question now is whether we can use this to generate the kind of forward movement which has thus far eluded us. The paper that follows analyzes our current problems on Cyprus and in the Eastern Mediterranean generally, and suggests possible approaches which might be undertaken in the months ahead.

II. The Current Situation


Cyprus: There has been no significant movement toward a settlement of the Cyprus problem since the coup against Makarios and the Turkish seizure of the northern forty per cent of the island in July–August 1974. Neither community seems willing to accept the risks it perceives as flowing from a serious negotiation. The Greek Cypriots know that any negotiated settlement will mean a permanent division of their island, possession by the Greeks of a far smaller land area than they held before mid-1974, and reduced power and prestige for the central government. Rather than accept such a result, the Greek Cypriots would rather stand pat and hope to mobilize the considerable international support they still enjoy to force a solution on Turkey.

In contrast, the Turkish Cypriots, content with the current status of the island, are reluctant to begin a negotiating process from which they will emerge with less than they now hold. The Turkish Cypriots know they will have to give up some territory, and they fear that whatever the constitutional solution, their physical safety and prosperity will once again become dependent on the good will of the numerically larger Greek-Cypriot community.

[Page 644]

Under these circumstances, imaginative proposals or great flexibility will not be forthcoming from either community, though both will publicly acknowledge that the present situation is unstable and that further fighting could erupt at any time.

Role of the United Nations: The United Nations maintains a peacekeeping force on Cyprus and, through the Secretary General, has provided a forum since April 1975 for intermittent discussion between the two Cypriot Communities. Secretary General Waldheim has used his “good offices” mandate in an effort to stimulate proposals and discussions of the most critical substantive issues. His success thus far has been meager. No serious intercommunal negotiating session has been held since February 1976; even Waldheim would admit that the prospects for fruitful talks between the two communities are dim unless a way can be found to sustain the process with support and ideas from the outside.

Greece: The events of 1974 pointed up Greece’s inability to protect Cyprus. This fact, together with the growth of tension in the Aegean, has tended to shift Greek political attention away from Cyprus to domestic concerns and the threat perceived to come from Turkey. Although the Caramanlis Government would prefer to have a satisfactory Cyprus solution, Athens is clearly prepared to live with the status quo rather than to give its blessing to an unpopular settlement— the only kind it thinks conceivable under present circumstances. Moreover, with most Greeks fully supportive of Makarios’ hard line, Caramanlis is not inclined to do anything very visible or imaginative with respect to the Cyprus issue.

This same trend toward inactivity manifests itself in Greek attitudes toward its security relationship with Western partners. In August NATO military structure and imposed restrictions on US bases in Greece. Over the past two years, Caramanlis has told us repeatedly that he wants to return to the NATO fold, and have US military facilities remain in his country. For more than eighteen months we have been negotiating agreements designed to modernize and stabilize that presence. But the Greek Government has dragged its feet and not completed the negotiations, seemingly unable or unwilling to decide what course it wants to set for itself.


Turkey: The Turks would like to pretend the Cyprus problem no longer exists. They are pleased with how the events of 1974 turned out, and while they occasionally concede that some minor territorial adjustments on Cyprus may be possible, they are clearly in no hurry to make them. The Turks view their own current problems with Greece, the European Community and the United States as more serious—and entirely separate—from the Cyprus issue. Thus, the Turkish Government [Page 645] has rejected any linkage between Cyprus and Turkey’s security relationship with the United States. In July 1975, the Turks closed down US intelligence collection operations in Turkey and insisted on the negotiation of a new four-year Defense Cooperation Agreement. They now look to prompt Congressional passage of that Agreement in early

As a further reason and excuse for inaction on Cyprus, the Turks also point to their own shaky domestic situation. The country is governed by a weak four-party coalition, which contains two small but vocal ultra-nationalist parties. National elections will be held some time between the late spring and early fall of 1977, and most Turkish politicians insist that until they are over, nothing can or should be done to resolve the Cyprus issue.

Congress: Congress has been impatient with the lack of movement toward a Cyprus settlement. It acknowledges the importance of maintaining close security ties with Turkey and Greece, but is inclined to treat this as of lesser importance than righting the wrongs of Turkish actions on Cyprus in 1974.

Western Europe: Our Western European Allies remain deeply concerned about the Cyprus issue, the growing estrangement between Turkey and Greece, and the problem of keeping both in the Western Alliance System. They would like to see both Greece and Turkey stay in NATO, and maintain and re-cement close bilateral defense arrangements with the United States.

The European Community, and especially the British, who still retain two sovereign base areas in Cyprus, have worked closely with the United States this past year in seeking to stimulate negotiations on Cyprus. They are anxious to continue this cooperation, particularly in the first six months of 1977 when the British will rotate into the position as President of the EC Council of Ministers.

The Aegean Issue: Although the location of Greek islands a few miles from the Turkish mainland has long been a source of Greek-Turkish friction, Turkey did not seriously challenge the primary Greek position in the Aegean until the Greeks discovered oil in the northern Aegean in 1973. Since that date, the Turks have demanded an equal role in the Aegean in general and exploration of the seabed in particular. The Aegean problem heated up in the spring of 1974—before the Cyprus crisis—and again in the summer of 1976. A UN Security Council resolution in August 1976,2 which both the Greeks and Turks accepted, [Page 646] has helped create a framework under which the two sides are now negotiating. Greek and Turkish negotiators will meet in Paris and Bern during November and possibly December. Neither side has expressed an interest in US mediation or assistance, though such action at some future time-perhaps in conjunction with the Cyprus issue-should not be excluded. The Aegean problem remains potentially more explosive than Cyprus, but for now and probably till the spring of 1977, US action would not seem called for or desirable.

III. Working Assumptions

The objective conditions and attitudes in the area, as described above, point to certain conclusions which we would suggest be taken into account as future policies are formulated:

A Cyprus settlement will take a long time to achieve. The problem is old, difficult, and many-faceted. Meaningful negotiations, even if started now, are likely to continue for a year or more.
The longer it takes to begin real movement, the harder it will be to reach a settlement. The Turks and Greeks both admit that opportunities for a solution were missed in 1974 and earlier, and that with each month that passes, attitudes on the ground harden and make it more difficult for either side to make concessions.
There is no reason to believe domestic developments in either Greece or Turkey will help us start or sustain a Cyprus negotiating process. The Greeks are likely to be less willing in 1977 than before to play an active role on Cyprus; only a wild optimist would bet on the emergence of a stable, one-party government after the 1977 Turkish elections.
No settlement on Cyprus will be achieved unless outsiders stimulate and, at some point, push the parties immediately involved into concluding an agreement. The parties privately would welcome such outside stimulation and pressure, since they know they are not in a position to change a situation themselves which they know needs changing.
Those who help bring about a settlement can expect to be blamed by the parties, who will use outsiders as scapegoats to sell the resultant compromise to their own people.
Our friends in Western Europe have their own reasons to seek solutions and ease tensions on the southeastern flank of NATO. But the European Community mechanism is cumbersome and incapable of devising quick decisions or initiatives. Thus, we will doubtless have to formulate the new ideas and take the lead, while encouraging continued close EC support. Such a posture will help ensure that any solution has a better chance of acceptance, as well as permit the blame to be more widely shared.

[Page 647]

IV. What Do We Do Next?

The election of Carter has unleashed exaggerated expectations in Greece, Cyprus and Turkey. The Governments in Athens and Nicosia expect enlarged political and material support for Greece and Greek interests, and clear evidence of the new Administration’s support for a Cyprus settlement close to that preferred by President Makarios and reflected in UN resolutions. The Turks fear that the new Administration, intent on fulfilling promises to Greek Americans, will adopt positions which could force Turkey out of the Western alliance system.

If unchanged by anything the US says or does between now and January, these differing expectations could in themselves foster further—and perhaps serious—deterioration in relations between Greece and Turkey. This in turn could hamper a new President’s opportunities for policy initiatives after January.

Under these circumstances, it would seem highly desirable for those who will take office in January to look at the problems in the Eastern Mediterranean very quickly, to decide in general terms what courses of action they would like to pursue, and then communicate these decisions rapidly to the parties in a manner most clearly calculated to win their understanding and cooperation. These steps should ideally be accomplished—or at least be well underway—before January

A. Phase One—Fact-Finding (late November)

Despatch a small, high-level, fact-finding team to Ankara, Athens and Nicosia led by someone who enjoys the President-elect’s confidence. This team, which might have Congressional representation, would aim at reassuring DEMIREL, Caramanlis and Makarios of the President-elect’s strong interest in maintaining close and friendly relations and of his intention to undertake a detailed review of our policies in the Eastern Mediterranean. The team would solicit suggestions as to how new policies might be formulated, and would seek answers to the following critical questions:

Greece: How does Greece, with whom we have been negotiating a Defense Cooperation Agreement since early 1975, wish to arrange its security relationship with the US and NATO? Does the present draft document provide an acceptable basis for that new relationship? Is Greece prepared to play an active role in the search for a Cyprus settlement? What, if anything, can be done to help Greece and Turkey achieve an Aegean settlement over the longer term?
Turkey: Will the Turkish Government accept that a linkage, which it has long resisted, exists between the Cyprus issue and the US-Turkish security relationship? Would the Turks prefer that we [Page 648] proceed with the Turkish-US Defense Cooperation Agreement in its present form, on condition that an acceptable Cyprus settlement follows? Or would they be prepared to be flexible on Cyprus now, before the Congress acts on the US-Turkish Defense Cooperation Agreement? Will the Turks be willing to sit still and allow action to be undertaken by the US or perhaps others with respect to Cyprus between now and the Turkish elections in 1977? Do the Turks want us to do anything on the Aegean? If so, what?
Cyprus: What role does Makarios wish us to play in seeking a Cyprus settlement? What are his minimum requirements and what timetable does he have in mind? These same questions can be put to the Turkish-Cypriot leadership.

B. Phase Two—Additional Consultations (December)

Ask the three US Ambassadors in the area to return to the US for a detailed briefing session involving the President-elect or his designated representative. These sessions would focus on a review of recent and future domestic developments in Turkey and Greece, the Aegean situation, the two-year record of the Cyprus negotiations, and prospects for relations with all three countries.
Arrange a series of talks with our principal European allies on the Cyprus issue and the security situation in the Eastern Mediterranean, aimed at determining what policies our allies would like us to adopt with respect to Turkey, Greece and Cyprus and what roles they wish—or can be induced—to play with us in the months ahead.
Discuss these same issues with the leadership of the new Congress, particularly with respect to passage through Congress of the US-Turkish Defense Cooperation Agreement, and the companion agreement still under negotiation with Greece.

C. Phase Three—Implementation (January)

Greece: Once a consensus is reached in Washington on how to proceed with the US-Greek security relationship, this should be communicated immediately by the outgoing Administration to the Athens Government. If the decision is to proceed with DCA negotiations, the US team should be despatched to Athens at once in an effort to complete talks in time to submit the DCA to Congress by late January. If the US decision is to proceed in some other fashion, the Department should be tasked to develop a new framework agreement for US-Greek defense cooperation which can be communicated to the Athens Government as soon as it is developed. Any conclusion with respect to the US-Turkey security relationship and our policy toward Cyprus should also be communicated to the Greek Government at the same time in an effort to enlist maximum possible understanding and cooperation from Athens.
Turkey: If the new Administration agrees to support the Turkish-US Defense Cooperation Agreement in Congress in its present form, this should be communicated promptly to the Turkish Government (the Greeks should be told as well in accordance with 1 above) in a manner most likely to win their active support for any Cyprus initiatives we might take in early 1977. If any other decision is reached by the new Administration, this too should be communicated promptly to Ankara, almost certainly by a high-level envoy who would explain the basis for the new Administration’s concerns, solicit Turkish understanding and outline a scenario for the remainder of 1977 covering defense cooperation, Cyprus and other matters which the Turkish Government should be urged to accept and support. A major selling job will clearly be required, since the prospect of Turkish elections will make that Government reluctant to underwrite any changes in the US-Turkish security relationship or imaginative moves on Cyprus which can be portrayed domestically as signs of Turkish weakness or capitulation.
Cyprus: An envoy should be despatched to Cyprus to see President Makarios and Denktash to outline what policy we intend to follow with respect to Cyprus in 1977. A timetable and strategy should be sketched, and Makarios and Denktash should be told what role we would like them to play in ensuing developments.
European Allies: We will want to talk directly with our key European allies about our new policies. If these are consistent with what, from our earlier consultations we know our European allies will actively support, then the consultations should be broadened to develop the specific programs to pursue together. On Cyprus, for example, we could discuss the possible expansion of our previously expressed principles, consider whether one or more mediators might be named, discuss the possibility of making a joint territorial proposal, joint constitutional proposals, etc.

All of our decisions with respect to Greece, Turkey and Cyprus can then be incorporated in a policy statement by the new Administration to be issued in Washington in late January or February, soon after the inauguration of the new President. Nothing in it will come as a surprise to our allies, and everything in it will have been the subject of consultations with the Congress and with all the parties involved. This is the best formula for getting off to a smooth start in what will almost certainly be a difficult foreign policy area for 1977.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of Henry Kissinger, Entry 5403, Box 1, Nodis Miscellaneous Documents, 1973–1977. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Nelson Ledsky and Raymond Ewing of EUR/SE. On November 7 Kissinger noted, “Hold for transition discussion.”
  2. The UN Security Council adopted Resolution 395 by consensus on August 25. Yearbook of the United Nations, 1976, p. 322)