10. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • President Carter
  • Vice President Mondale
  • Cyrus Vance, Secretary of State
  • Clark Clifford, President’s Special Emissary to the Eastern Mediterranean
  • Zbigniew Brzezinski, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Matthew Nimetz, State Department Counselor-designate
  • Gregory Treverton, NSC Staff

Mr. Clifford reported on his recent mission to Greece, Turkey and Cyprus.2 He described it as exhilarating and thought it had accomplished more than he had expected. The mission brought a message of hope from a new President.


Mr. Clifford described his strategy with regard to the Cyprus issue. The mission tried to see where leverage existed. In Turkey the message was one of partnership: Turkey wants an end to the arms embargo, and we want progress on Cyprus. Mr. Clifford disabused the Turks of any thought that the position of Congress is only the result of the “Greek lobby.” On the last day of the visit, the Foreign Minister indicated that Ankara would press Turkish Cypriot leader Denktash to submit a concrete proposal on the form of government for Cyprus at the intercommunal negotiations in Vienna at the end of March.

In Cyprus the message was very different. Mr. Clifford told Makarios of the Turkish initiative and indicated that Makarios should present a territorial proposal. Mr. Clifford noted the help we have rendered to Cyprus in the past but suggested that we cannot continue indefinitely at serious cost to our NATO relationships. In the end, Makarios agreed that his negotiator would present a reasonable bizonal map in Vienna.

Mr. Clifford’s conversation with Denktash was the least pleasant of any of his discussions. Denktash resented being pressured by Ankara, but he confirmed that he would present a proposal in Vienna.

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British Bases on Cyprus

Mr. Clifford described his conversations in London with Foreign Secretary Owen.3 The question of the British sovereign bases on Cyprus came up, and Mr. Clifford thought it would surface again in the President’s conversations with Prime Minister Callaghan.


Mr. Clifford said he was startled at the vehemence of Greek Prime Minister Caramanlis’ description of “Turkish expansionism” in the Aegean. Caramanlis said he had been pushed as far as he could go, and any further Turkish action could lead to war. Mr. Clifford believed, however, that the Aegean differences between Greece and Turkey could be solved. The United States may be able to serve as a moderating, intermediate influence. Mr. Clifford, for instance, had been able to convey the Greek fears to Ankara and receive detailed explanations from the Turks.

Letters to Heads of State

Mr. Clifford suggested that the President write letters to Demirel, Makarios and Denktash thanking them for receiving Clifford, at the same time indicating gratification at each’s commitment to present a proposal in Vienna. A similar letter might be sent to Caramanlis, indicating that the United States is prepared to extend its good offices in a resolution of the Aegean disputes.4


The President indicated his desire to follow up the mission in ways that do not aggravate Turkey. Mr. Clifford agreed and recommended that the United States extend $175 million of military credits to Turkey but not give it any military aid until the Cyprus problem is resolved. Secretary Vance believed that Senator Sarbanes and his colleagues would accept that, and the Vice President suggested that Clifford meet privately with pro-Greek members of Congress. The President indicated that Mr. Clifford could tell Messrs. Sarbanes and Brademas that he agreed with Clifford’s recommended approach. To the extent they can go along, that would help us with the Greek Government. The President indicated that he is determined to move in the direction suggested by Mr. Clifford in any case.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 34, Memcons: President: 3/77. Confidential. The meeting took place in the Oval Office.
  2. See Document 8.
  3. Clifford arrived in London on February 27. His written report to the President only briefly mentions these talks. He reported more fully to Secretary Vance; see Document 9.
  4. Letters to Makarios, Demirel, and Karamanlis are printed as Documents 35, 90, and 165.