119. Memorandum From the Counselor of the Department of State (Nimetz) to Secretary of State Vance and the Deputy Secretary of State (Christopher)1


  • Substantive Issues Related to the Turkish Embargo Decision

There have been some indications from our Congressional supporters, for example Zablocki, and from those leaning against us, for example Ben Gilman, that the House vote will be close and the embargo is likely to be sustained unless Turkey quickly makes further constructive moves. There are a number of areas where the Turks could theoretically offer concessions either unilaterally or diplomatically. The Turks would greatly prefer that any additional movement by them be related to matching moves from the other side and the UN. Such responses are very unlikely until after the vote.

The Tactical Situation

Getting additional movement from the Turkish side will not be easy. First, Ecevit and the foreign policy leadership group will be in Moscow and pretty much out of touch until June 25. Second, Ecevit would clearly ask whether any suggested concession(s) would be sufficient, in the manner of the DeConcini reservation, to swing the vote to Turkey’s favor.2 Unfortunately, there is no group in the Congress in a position to assure us or the Turks that any single concession or package of concessions would suffice to win the day. Third, Ecevit has been tremendously impressed by the President’s determination to press Congress hard on the embargo and would regard our asking for more Turkish concessions so soon after his Washington visit as a sign that the Administration’s commitment is not genuine. Fourth, the Greek Cypriots have given no indication that they would respond positively to any realistically possible Turkish gesture until after the embargo is voted up or down in Congress. Moreover, no matter what the Turks might do, it is very doubtful that Waldheim would call upon the Greek [Page 376] Cypriots to attend intercommunal negotiations until he is sure they would accept and he is convinced this will not happen while the embargo question is open.

Areas Where Movement is Possible

We have already discussed the following items with the parties and have a good idea of their views:

Turkish Troop Withdrawals. In the President’s meeting with Ecevit, the Prime Minister was told that a dramatic reduction might be significant. Ecevit recounted the 16,000 troop withdrawals that have taken place since the 1974 invasion. The Turks assert that in the context of a final settlement essentially all of their troops will be withdrawn and that in the interim they envisage continuing phased incremental withdrawals. (COMMENT: These withdrawals tend to be so small and so ineptly announced as to have no public impact.) Caramanlis in his meeting with the President criticized the presence of Turkish forces, but signalled that a reduction of even 10,000–15,000 would not change the balance on the island or Turkey’s position as an occupying power3 and similar comments have been made by the Greek Cypriots. Even though the Greek side would denigrate any Turkish withdrawal, it would have some effect in the Congress.

Varosha. Secretary General Waldheim in his latest Cyprus report indicated that the UN could appropriately help facilitate the return of Greek Cypriots to Varosha. We have been floating such an idea with the Turkish side, with our Western allies and with the UN for the past month. The Greek side has, however, shown no interest in a package deal for Varosha which would include their agreeing to resumption of intercommunal negotiations. The ideas in our non-paper were also floated with the Brademas group and they have not responded.4 Alternatively, the Turkish side could publicly call upon the UN to rehabilitate and administer Varosha once talks resume. This would have some impact. Or, the Turkish side could make explicit that Varosha will be returned to Greek Cypriot control. A clear statement to this effect would truly be significant, but it would be seen in Turkey as a new concession and would be resisted by Denktash.

The Demilitarization of Cyprus. At the UN Special Session on Disarmament, Cypriot President Kyprianou suggested that Cyprus be demilitarized and a police force be established under UN supervision manned by Greek and Turkish Cypriots in proportion to existing popu[Page 377]lation ratios.5 We undertook to study this proposal. Our preliminary view is that this is only a superficially attractive idea. If there were a “unitary” police force serving throughout Cyprus, it would severely undermine the Turkish goal of equality between the two communities with substantial autonomy for each zone. On the other hand, if this new police force was structured so that the Turkish component (some 20% of total) would serve only in the north and the 80% Greek component only in the south, such a force would be offensive to the Greeks. This does not appear to be a proposal that could be developed in the next week or so.

Summit Meetings. Secretary General Waldheim invited the four leaders, Caramanlis, Ecevit, Denktash and Kyprianou, to get together for an informal social meeting in New York. Kyprianou refused. In the very unlikely event that Ecevit were to agree to a bilateral meeting with Kyprianou without Denktash, we might be able to get Kyprianou to agree to resume negotiations and this would be helpful in the Congress. However, the Greek Cypriots seem determined to avoid a resumption of intercommunal talks, even should a EcevitKyprianou meeting take place.

The Constitution. The Turkish side might make clear that their conception of a federal Cyprus with two equal zones has room for a national president elected on a one-man, one-vote basis, albeit with clearly prescribed and limited powers. Specific examples of “flexibility” might also be outlined.

The Nicosia Airport and Missing Persons. The Turks have been reasonably forthcoming on both of these issues and we could probably convince them to make public statements unconditionally accepting solutions most Americans would view as reasonable. This would only help us in Congress if we could also in some way either get the Greek side to respond positively or assign responsibility on the Greek side for not picking up on these good-faith offers. But once the embargo issue is out of the way, we have indications that the Greek Cypriots may accept the latest missing persons committee formulation. Both of these issues are sufficiently technical to make it difficult to assign responsibility to the two sides.

US-Turkish Bilateral Prisoner Exchange. In response to renewed Congressional interest in the release of three Americans serving long drug smuggling sentences in Turkey, and in response to several demarches by Embassy Ankara, the Turkish Government has just indicated its willingness to negotiate a bilateral agreement along the lines of an existing European convention. Ambassador Esenbel has notified [Page 378] the most interested Congressman (Harold Sawyer of Michigan) who reportedly was delighted. We studied this convention several years ago and determined that we could not adhere to it. I have asked the Legal Bureau to look at it again to see if we can use it to build an acceptable bilateral agreement which will accomplish our purposes. If so, we will work towards an early joint announcement of negotiations. Success in this venture would be seen as a positive Turkish move by at least three Congressmen.


If we decide to push the Turks for additional very specific concessions and gestures, we must realize that—assuming we succeed—the Turks may comply in a manner that does not convince the “leaners” and undecideds and that the Greek side will probably not respond positively. The greatest impact in the Congress would result from a public signal by the Administration that the Turks are now being forthcoming and moderate on Cyprus but that the Greek side is not responding because they prefer maintenance of the embargo to negotiations. This would be a difficult domestic political choice for the Administration and would also impact on our future ability to follow a balanced, diplomatic approach in the area.

An Alternative

While we might still seek some of the above concessions on their merits, we might earn more credit—at less risk—were we to focus our efforts on convincing the Congress, the Greek Americans and the Greeks and Cypriots that we have not abandoned the Cyprus problem. This could be done by announcing that as soon as the embargo is lifted, we will undertake new diplomatic initiatives in conjunction with the UN and with those in Europe who share our concern to seek a prompt resolution of the Cyprus problem. We would make clear that after the embargo is lifted, we will join our friends in making substantive suggestions which will help the two parties negotiate in a sustained and flexible manner. I believe the Europeans, in any event the British and the Germans, think a more substantive third party role will be required and would be pleased to join us in such an effort.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Office of Southern Europe, Records of Counselor Nimetz, 1977–1980, Lot 83D256, Box 1, POL 2 Cyprus 1977 and 1978. Confidential. Cleared by Ewing.
  2. Reference is to legislation introduced by Senator Dennis DeConcini (D-Arizona) to modify the Panama Canal Treaty in April 1978. DeConcini insisted that the Treaty include the right of the United States to intervene militarily should the Canal’s security become threatened. Carter agreed to the modification and the Senate passed the Treaty with the so-called DeConcini reservation intact. (Jorden, Panama Odyssey, pp. 585–599)
  3. See Document 175.
  4. Presumably a draft of the “non-paper” described in footnote 2, Document 61.
  5. See Document 54.