115. Telegram From the Embassy in Turkey to the Department of State1

3734. Subj: Effect on Turkish Cyprus Policy of Failure To Lift Embargo.

1. Summary: As Turks have indicated, congressional defeat of the administration’s effort to lift the arms embargo would cause the Ecevit government to review all aspects of Turkish foreign policy, including its Cyprus policy. Although that review might not result in a dramatic, immediate change, it would, we believe, result in a hardening of the GOT attitude which in turn would greatly diminish the chances of early resumption of intercommunal talks and could eventually lead to a complete breakdown in the negotiation process followed by partition or UDI. End summary.

2. One of the many questions brought into focus by the close vote in the HIRC May 4 and the SFRC defeat May 11 is what will happen to Turkey’s Cyprus policy if the administration’s effort to lift the embargo fails. Successive Turkish governments have consistently objected to the concept of linkage between the embargo and the developments on Cyprus, but under Demirel the GOT maintained “reverse” linkage by saying that it could not be expected to make concessions on Cyprus as long as the embargo remained in force. When Ecevit came to power in January, he took the initiative to remove this reverse linkage, declaring that Turkey’s national interests dictated a Cyprus solution regardless of the embargo.

[Page 360]

3. Although Ecevit has reconfirmed the policy of non-linkage several times in past weeks, it has become increasingly apparent that linkage will in fact continue as long as the Greek side sees only two feasible alternatives: (a) Turkish capitulation on all major issues; or (b) continuation of the embargo which, if not totally satisfactory, at least keeps Turkey in check while Greece increases its air and naval buildup. Since Turkish capitulation is unlikely, the Greek and Greek Cypriot policy of choice is continuation of the embargo. This choice seems premised on the belief that the Turks will ultimately respond positively to the pressure of the embargo—a belief we consider unrealistic and dangerous.

4. Ecevit has already been frustrated by the fact that his unilateral “peace offensive” did not induce more flexibility on the other side. If the embargo is reconfirmed by Congress—an act Turks will see simply as a response to Greek and Greek Cypriot pressures—we expect Ecevit will respond by “reviewing” the whole range of Turkey’s foreign policies including its Cyprus policy.2 Such a review will take place in a domestic political atmosphere charged with emotional nationalism, and its results are likely to reflect that atmosphere. Reasoned consideration of policy options will probably take a back seat to efforts to find a scapegoat and assert national dignity. There is likely to be an open rejection of the views and concerns of outsiders, particularly the US.

5. Nevertheless, of Turkey’s several apparent policy options, only one—capitulation—is likely to be discarded out of hand. The others—from standing fast to UDI—seem to us to be a continuum of sub-options for what will probably emerge as the new Turkish approach.3 We cannot totally rule out immediate and angry gestures (such as settlement of Varosha) but we expect Ecevit’s initial approach will take something like the following form:

[Page 361]

A. A statement that his efforts for a settlement had been predicated on the assumption that the Greek Cypriot side wished to negotiate a fair settlement, an assumption which they had destroyed;

B. A reaffirmation of a willingness of the Turkish side to enter into negotiations on the basis of proposals now on the table; and

C. A warning that the Turkish Cypriots cannot be expected to remain indefinitely hostage to an illusory Greek Cypriot goodwill.

6. All of the implications of such an approach are not yet clear. One that is, however, is that the intercommunal talks will be postponed indefinitely. Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots will ostensibly remain willing to negotiate. But, in fact, disillusioned by the negative response of the Greek side—and of the world in general—to their earlier efforts, they are likely to become increasingly rigid. In such a situation, resumption of the intercommunal talks will become dependent on a major conciliatory effort by the Greek side, which we gather would be an extremely unlikely development.

7. With no prospect of resumed intercommunal talks, it is likely to be only a matter of time until Turkey responds to the pressures of the Turkish Cypriots and super-nationalists in Turkey to seek a “new international status” for the Turkish Federated State of Cyprus. This is a step the Ecevit government would take only with great reluctance because it violates both long-standing RPP policy and popular concepts of national security interests. We therefore think it is unlikely that the GOT will soon agree to a Unilateral Declaration of Independence. But “creeping partition”—that is, stabilization of the current division—would eventually lead to either independence or incorporation into Turkey.

8. This analysis is speculative and we cannot be sure how closely its projections will coincide with developments. Nevertheless, we are convinced that the Turkish reaction to a defeat of the effort to repeal 620(x) will, at the very least, mean a serious setback to efforts to reach a negotiated solution to the Cyprus issue. At worst, it could mean UDI and/or partition of the Republic of Cyprus.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780206–0594. Confidential; Priority. Sent for information to Athens, Bonn, Copenhagen, London, Nicosia, USNATO, USUN, USNMR SHAPE, USDOCOSouth, USDOCOLANDSoutheast, USCINCEUR, Adana, Istanbul, and Izmir.
  2. In his official statement on the SFRC vote, Ecevit said the vote did not surprise him; that his government was resigned to the possibility that the embargo might not be lifted; and that an ongoing embargo would not threaten Turkish independence. But the impact on Turkey’s Cyprus policy would be clear: “It is obvious,” Ecevit said, “that as long as the US arms embargo is maintained, and as long as it is thought that Turkey will eventually yield under pressure, there will be no settlement of the Cyprus problem.” (Telegram 8842 from Bonn, May 12; Department of State, Office of the Legal Adviser, Country Files (1940–1986), Lot 89D336, Box 4, Turkey 620(x) Repeal)
  3. Turkey was considering a number of military options alongside its Cyprus policy, in light of the SFRC vote. During a May 16 meeting with U.S. military officials at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, General Kenan Evren, Chief of the Turkish General Staff, warned that if the embargo was not lifted before the congressional summer recess, Turkey would: 1) Drastically reduce U.S. installations in Turkey; 2) Reduce the size and number of NATO Headquarters and installations in Turkey; 3) [text not declassified]; 4) Reduce the size of Turkey’s overall military structure and the number of units committed to NATO. (Telegram 1668 from SHAPE, May 16; Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 75, Turkey: 1–7/78)