146. Telegram From the Mission to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to the Department of State1

8750. Subj: (C) Secretary’s Meeting With Turkish Foreign Minister Erkmen.

1. C-entire text.

2. Summary. In a pleasant and low-key fashion the new Turkish Foreign Minister Erkmen set out to introduce himself to the Secretary and establish his credentials as a long-time friend of NATO and supporter of strong relations between Turkey and the United States. He then presented a short list of requests concerning the size of military assistance for FY 1981, debt suspension for outstanding FMS loans, the supply of military equipment, and rapid conclusion of the defense cooperation negotiations. He did this in a general and non-demanding fashion. After the meeting was over, the Turkish PermRep to NATO, Olcay, presented Ambassador Bennett with a talking paper that made similar points, but in greater detail. This paper can be found at para 12. End summary.

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3. Secretary Vance welcomed the new Turkish Foreign Minister and told him that he looked forward to working with him. The Turkish Foreign Minister said he was pleased that the American Secretary of State had agreed to meet with him so soon. He said that he did not want to refer back to past history in the relationship, only wanted to mention that he was a member of a government that was known to have always valued a strong relationship with the United States. He said he would have only a few issues to raise, and he would be very happy to receive a quick reaction from the Secretary.

4. Erkmen mentioned the severe economic problems faced by Turkey and the longstanding force commitments it had made to the NATO Alliance. He said that taking these two facts together should lead the United States to have broad understanding for Turkey’s problems. Erkmen then recalled that in the NAC Ministerial meeting earlier in the day he had mentioned his having been the youngest member of the Turkish Cabinet that in the 1950’s had decided to join NATO. Now he remarked he is the oldest member of the new Turkish Government that wishes to develop and strengthen its relationship with NATO. It was in the spirit of friendship and Alliance that he wished to raise several specific issues.

—Overdue FMS debts. He asked that these be treated with full understanding.

—The Turkish five-year equipment list: Erkmen said that the United States and Secretary Vance were surely aware of the quality problems of Turkish armed force equipment. He said that a five-year list of equipment for the 1980’s had been presented to the United States recently, and he hoped that the Government of the United States would find a way to help provide for these equipment needs.

FY 1981 budget: He said that the Turkish Prime Minister would very much appreciate hearing from President Carter, if that were possible, with respect to the US FY 81 budget requests for assistance to Turkey. Turkey hoped that a letter from the American President could make the point that the United States will be favorably inclined and will do its best to help Turkey and to strengthen the relationship. (For further elaboration, see septel on Nimetz/Sahinbas meeting.2

—The defense cooperation negotiations: He requested that every effort be made to resolve the remaining issues so that the agreements could be signed before the January 9 date set by the previous government.

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5. Secretary Vance responded that the United States and the present administration sincerely valued the relationship with Turkey. The effort made last year during one of tight budget stringency to provide Turkey with 450 million dollars in assistance, an amount which was only surpassed by Israel and Egypt in the whole world, surely demonstrated that commitment. The budget for FY 1981 is presently under preparation. The Secretary told Erkmen that he is scheduled to meet with President Carter on December 18 to discuss the security assistance elements of the budget.3 Vance also mentioned that he had forwarded to the President a request for a substantial sum for Turkey, but that it was premature to comment in any detail. He said that as soon as a decision was made, he would be happy to get word to Foreign Minister Erkmen. Vance reiterated that the size of the commitment undertaken by the United States last year surely demonstrates to Turkey the importance the United States attaches to helping Turkey fulfill its needs and the value the United States places on the relationship. Vance told Erkmen that in attempting to help Turkey in this way and to build the relationship, he was not referring to all of Turkey’s specific economic and financial problems which the United States was also attempting to respond to.

6. Erkmen said he wished to raise one further issue in connection with the 1980 assistance earmarked for Turkey. Of the 198 million in assistance, 100 million has been received, but 98 million is apparently subject to some difficulty in the US Congress and Turkey has not been able to use any of it. He said this was currently a major problem because Turkey is facing special difficulties in purchasing petroleum products.

7. Secretary Vance asked Counselor Nimetz whether the bill was still held up in conference. Nimetz said it was, but that the dispute had nothing to do with the 98 million dollar assistance for Turkey. The US side expressed the hope that this bottleneck would be over soon. Erkmen said he did not wish to question the details only hoped the problem would be resolved in the very near term.

8. Defense negotiations: Erkmen said that his experts have reported that no major problems remain in the defense agreement negotiations and that there could be a signing very soon of the basic agreement. He then referred to some of the appendices and attached agreements and said that while it might be tempting to want to sign just the basic agreement and keep working on the others, problems were sometimes caused in this way and Turkey would prefer to resolve all of the issues promptly so that all of the agreements could be signed. [Page 447] Vance agreed that the two countries were very close to consummating the basic agreement and hoped to be able to do so by January 9. Insofar as the related attachments were concerned, realistically speaking it might be hard to get them all ready by January 9, though the United States would like to accomplish that. Nimetz said that in his view the negotiations have been going well for both sides, but that the structure of all the agreements is such that it might be very difficult to get perhaps as many as 90 separate documents ready in time. The Turkish negotiator, Sahinbas, interjected that it should be possible to get all the agreements done since many of these were “standard documents.” Secretary Vance suggested that Counselor Nimetz and the Turkish negotiator get together on Friday to discuss this matter further and see what could be done. (septel).4 Nimetz affirmed that the United States also wanted very much to resolve this matter quickly. Erkmen then said he had no further issues which he wished to raise.

9. Cyprus: Secretary Vance said that he would like to discuss the Cyprus problem since he understands that it may be possible to get the intercommunal talks resumed soon if Waldheim issued a new invitation cum suggestion. Vance said an early resumption of the talks would be in everyone’s interests. In order to get the talks restarted, therefore, Secretary Vance asked Foreign Minister Erkmen to do whatever he could to convince the interested parties to cooperate. Vance told Erkmen that he had asked Greek Foreign Minister Rallis to do the same, who had agreed. Erkmen assured the Secretary that he could be certain that the Turkish Foreign Minister would not want to fall behind Mr. Rallis in this question and that Erkmen, too, would do all that he could.

10. Secretary Vance then asked the Foreign Minister to please convey his respects and best wishes to Prime Minister Demirel and to also pass along similar expressions of respect from President Carter. Erkmen replied that he too had left this important question for last and wished to pass along Prime Minister Demirel’s high regards and best wishes to Secretary Vance and President Carter.

11. In conclusion, Secretary Vance asked Counselor Nimetz to do what he could to speed up the negotiation and signing of the defense agreement and for his part, he undertook to do what he could to get the FY 81 budget figures for the Turkish Government.

[Omitted here is the Turkish talking paper.]

  1. Source: Department of State, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Cyrus R. Vance, Secretary of State—1977–1980, Lot 84D241, Box 9, Vance NODIS MemCons, 1979. Confidential; Immediate; Exdis. Sent for information Priority to Ankara, Athens, Nicosia, and USUN.
  2. In telegram 8746 from USNATO, December 14, the Mission reported on the meeting between Nimetz and Şahinbaş, which explored ways to speed up the defense cooperation negotiations between the United States and Turkey. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790575–0870)
  3. No substantive record of this meeting was found.
  4. Not further identified. No record of the meeting was found.