101. Memorandum From Secretary of State Vance to President Carter1


  • U.S. Relations with Turkey and the Cyprus Issue

The two lengthy meetings which Clark Clifford and I had with Turkish Foreign Minister Caglayangil in New York, which built upon earlier meetings our Counselor, Matt Nimetz, had in Ankara and Washington, have left us with a sense of encouragement about the possibilities for an improved situation in the Eastern Mediterranean.2 I [Page 321] would like briefly to review the specific issues we discussed with the Turks, and to set out for you the policy which we recommend for the months ahead with respect to both Turkey and Cyprus.

The Turkish Foreign Minister convinced me in New York that his government wants to re-establish the closest possible bilateral defense relationship with the U.S. He said Turkey was prepared to do whatever was necessary to resolve the Cyprus question and accepted that this was a necessary step to putting Turkish-U.S. relations back on the right track. Turkey could not act, however, so long as it was seen to be responding to direct U.S. pressure. A series of positive steps could be initiated, some time after the Greek elections of November 20, to bring about real progress—not just the appearance of progress—with respect to Cyprus.

The Foreign Minister said he would discuss this matter further with Prime Minister Demirel upon his return to Ankara; I, in turn, undertook to discuss with you the steps we might consider taking to show our support for these Turkish steps and our readiness to begin moving the U.S.-Turkish Defense Cooperation Agreement through Congress in 1978. We agreed to communicate with each other again once our internal consultations were completed.

On the basis of our conversations in New York, the Turkish side is now considering:

(1) A series of public statements, announcing Turkish support for early resumption of meaningful Cyprus negotiations and Turkey’s readiness to play an active, positive role in achieving a solution.

(2) Further troop reductions totaling several thousand men stretched out over three or four months, coupled with public statements suggesting that Turkey will consider further withdrawals as negotiating progress continues and will remove all unauthorized troops and equipment from Cyprus when a negotiated settlement is finally achieved.

(3) Broadening the current UN intercommunal negotiating forum by seeking to have created a supplementary negotiating mechanism which would make possible the direct participation by Turkey and Greece as well as the two Cypriot communities. The Turks suggested that we initiate this procedure in a request to Waldheim, after preliminary soundings have been made.

(4) The presentation of a new set of constitutional proposals at the next round of Cyprus talks, the outlines of which would be communicated to us in advance in bilateral discussions.

(5) A commitment to negotiate on territorial questions at the next Cyprus negotiating round with the understanding that modifications in the Greek Cypriots’ favor would be part of any final package settlement.

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(6) An assurance that the U.S. can play a behind-the-scenes role following the establishment of this new negotiating mechanism, pursuant to which Clark Clifford could intensify his bilateral discussions with the parties to assist in their negotiating efforts.

(7) A private assurance to the U.S. against provocations and unilateral actions by the Turks in northern Cyprus that could jeopardize matters to be discussed in the Cyprus negotiations.

(8) A few practical, interim measures in northern Cyprus that will demonstrate Turkish flexibility and give evidence that the Turkish side is prepared to alter the existing status quo.

These steps will not in themselves solve the Cyprus issue or necessarily even result in sustained negotiations. Indeed, unless Turkish proposals are met by responsiveness on the part of the Greeks and Greek Cypriots, they may lead nowhere. Yet I believe it would be unrealistic to expect the Turks to pledge to do more initially than we were able to exact from the Turkish Foreign Minister as outlined above. I also think that if the Turkish government really takes these steps, and they in turn are supported by the Western Europeans and ourselves, a positive atmosphere will be created and a solid basis laid for the kind of serious negotiating progress which has been absent for the past three years.

I believe we should tell the Turks we will endorse the steps outlined above, and will work with them, to the extent our behind-the-scenes involvement will be helpful and accepted, in ensuring the most productive results possible.

As this process moves forward, the Turks will expect the U.S. to do the following:

(1) Arrange for early Presidential Determinations to cover the $175 million already authorized by Congress for FMS credits for Turkey in FY 1978.

(2) Use our influence with UN Secretary General Waldheim and the Greek and Greek Cypriot governments to broaden the Cyprus negotiating mechanism so that Greece and Turkey as well as the two Cypriot communities can participate in meaningful negotiations.

(3) Undertake to schedule Congressional hearings on the Turkish DCA in late January 1978, and seek full Congressional approval by March/April 1978. (We should also seek to persuade the Greeks to sign their DCA, which has been initialled, in December so that it can be considered at the same time.)3

I know it will be difficult, given our other foreign and domestic policy concerns at present, to commit ourselves to still another legisla [Page 323] tive program in the foreign policy field. Nonetheless, I believe it is a matter which cannot be put to one side much longer. The Turks have felt themselves disadvantaged and humiliated by the Congressionally-imposed “embargo” which has been in effect for more than two years. They view enactment of the U.S.-Turkish Defense Cooperation Agreement, which was signed in March 1976, as the vehicle to restore our bilateral and NATO relationship. Our choice, therefore, is to test them now or to accept a continuing stalemate, or worse, in the eastern Mediterranean. Clark Clifford and I believe working with the Turks in the manner discussed in New York gives us the best chance to make progress on Cyprus—and the opportunity to restore the U.S.-Turkish security relationship, resume our operations at Turkish intelligence facilities and strengthen Turkey’s NATO capability. If we do not move ahead in this manner, I can foresee only continued stalemate in the Cyprus negotiations and a deteriorating security relationship with Turkey, with serious consequences for NATO and the entire region.

I believe that the time has come to test the Turks and take the risk involved. The scenario outlined above provides sufficient safeguards so that we need not proceed too far or too fast without testing the consequences. We will in effect be doing nothing visible until the Turks begin to act. Public actions would begin in earnest only after the November 20 Greek elections while our moves in the Congress in respect to the DCA need not begin until late January, by which time we will be in a position to gauge the sincerity of Turkish actions. Thus, we are proposing that (a) we take certain minimal interim steps at an early date and (b) inform the Turks that we will pursue common goals, including pushing the DCA next year.

There is also no question that John Brademas, Paul Sarbanes, Tom Eagleton, Ben Rosenthal and their supporters will oppose this approach since they believe that all existing military arms restrictions on Turkey should be maintained until a settlement of the Cyprus problem is in place. Clark Clifford had a general discussion with this group on October 13 and we plan at an early date to undertake further consultations with them and others from the leadership of the foreign relations committees of both houses.4

I would very much welcome an opportunity to discuss this matter with you and hope that you would also invite Clark Clifford, who sat in with me during my last meeting with the Turkish Foreign Minister in New York, and held separate bilaterals with Kyprianou, Bitsios and Caglayangil.5

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Country Chron File, Box 50, Turkey: 1977. Secret; Exdis. In the upper right corner, Carter wrote, “Cy—Sounds like excellent progress—if it materializes. J.C.”
  2. Clifford met with Çağlayangil in New York on September 29, and Çağlayangil repeated many of the points he raised with Vance on September 27. The memorandum of conversation is in the National Archives, RG 59, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Records of Counselor Nimetz, 1977–1980, Lot 81D85, Box 2, MemCons.
  3. See Document 168.
  4. See Document 14.
  5. At the end of the memorandum, Carter wrote “ok” and initialed “JC.” See Document 16.