152. Telegram From Secretary of State Muskie to the Department of State1

Secto 4048. Please pass President’s party. Subject: Secretary’s Meeting With Turkish Prime Minister June 24, 1980. Ref: Secto 4035.2

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1. Secret-entire text.

2. Summary: Secretary met for approximately 70 minutes, June 24, with Turkish Prime Minister Demirel, Foreign Minister Erkmen, and other Turkish officials prior to opening of NATO Ministerial session. Demirel was preoccupied with current debate in Turkish Parliament on censure motion directed against his government but was relaxed and confident that barring unforeseen developments he would be able defeat motion next week. Without making specific requests except for rescheduling of Turkey’s debt falling due in 1981 and 1982, as well as 1980, Demirel emphasized NATO role of Turkey, commitment to democratic system, and willingness to resolve differences with Greeks through negotiations and to see resumed Cyprus talks. He indicated Turkish willingness be helpful on Iranian hostage situation. Secretary said we realized importance of strong, economically healthy Turkey and its strategic location. US was willing to continue be helpful in meeting Turkish requirements. He expressed appreciation for Turkish Olympic boycott and for willingness help on Iranian hostage problem.3 Secretary also stressed importance of early Greek reintegration into NATO and of finding ways to get a solution moving on Cyprus. He said we would take another look at possibilities before the next debt rescheduling negotiating session in July. End summary.

3. After the press and photographers had left his office, Turkish Prime Minister Demirel opened his meeting with Secretary Muskie with a 30 minute presentation. Demirel said he was happy to welcome the Foreign Ministers of Turkey’s NATO allies to Ankara for the first such meeting here since 1960. He recalled that Turkey for many years had very good and friendly relations with the US which served a mutual interest for both countries. There had been some trouble during the arms embargo period but both countries knew the value of their relations to the entire Alliance.

4. Demirel said he was firmly convinced that a weak Turkey would not be in the interest of either the Turkish people, its allies, or its neighbors. He was determined to build Turkey’s strength. The Prime Minister also pointed out that of the 156 members of the UN, only 23 had free democratic systems of government and of these only 2 (India and Japan) were in Asia in addition to Turkey. Turkey was geographically part of both Asia and Europe but he felt strongly that Europe and [Page 458] the Western community should not end at the Bulgaria/Greek border. Turkey had been able to keep its free democratic party system for 34 years and was determined in its own interest to continue such a system. Turkey was also determined to carry out its responsibility to defend itself and to cooperate with others for the common defense of NATO. Turkey had never failed to fulfill its NATO commitments.

5. Demirel stressed the importance of economic strength. According to his figures, Turkey now ranked 52 among UN members in terms of per capita income. It has enormous potential resources, including a hardworking, able people. Economic trends have been good from 1963 to 1978 when 7 percent annual real growth had been achieved. Economic stability had been the pattern during this period, even though, according to Demirel, there had been too many governments. In the 1978/79 period Turkey had been afflicted with heavy inflation which his government in the last seven months had tried to fight through unpopular measures. There had been good support from the people and the program was having results. This approach would be continued. Demirel was grateful for Western assistance and understanding. He hoped for a very good harvest in 1980 but noted the high cost of imported petroleum.

6. With regard to equipment for the military forces, Demirel said that $800 million was needed this year to keep the forces at the same level and that approximately $4.5 billion would be required over the next five to six years. Turkish resources were very limited but they were doing their best.

7. Reverting again to the economic situation, Demirel noted improved price performance over the last three months as well as some increase in industrial activity. He said that the IMF, IBRD, and OECD have shown good understanding as had national assistance organizations. His goal was “expansion within stability.” This would take time but he expressed confidence.

8. With respect to relations with the Greeks, Demirel said that the existence of problems and disputes should not lead to confrontation or hostile relations. Disputes should be settled through negotiation since confrontation would serve the purpose of the common enemy of Turkey and Greece. He thought it important to try to find solutions through negotiations and peaceful means and hoped that the Greeks would not think that a strong Turkey would be a greater problem for Greece.

9. Demirel commended the recently signed Defense and Economic Cooperation Agreement as serving the interests of both Turkey and the US. He said that it would get through the Turkish Parliament and that having such approval would avoid potential problems later. In any event, the DECA was already in force so there was no great ruse to get [Page 459] it through Parliament. Demirel said he appreciated what the US had done in the past and he realized the value of Turkey’s strategic location from the US point of view.

10. With regard to Iran, Demirel said that no civilized person could approve of the holding of the hostages. Turkey had suffered from the shooting of Turkish Ambassadors abroad and felt strongly that diplomats should enjoy protection. The hostage problem was not just that of the US but of the entire world. He said it is very difficult to know who had government power in Iran but doubted that most of the Iranian people support holding the hostages. He noted the danger of pushing Iran toward the Soviets but stressed that the Turkish Government would do its best if it could be of any help in the hostage problem. They had tried in the past to be helpful. They believed it important not to cut relations with their neighbor but rather to keep open a window which might in the future be helpful.

11. In closing, Demirel said he wanted to raise one other matter, namely the recent meeting in Paris to reschedule Turkey’s debts.4 He thought it important that Turkey have full support during the next three to five years to pull its economy together. The particular matter where he hoped the US could do something involved debts already postponed in 1978/79. He hoped these debts could again be rescheduled covering not only 1980 but also the next two years. He said he would appreciate anything the Secretary could do.

12. Secretary Muskie responded that he was delighted to be making his first visit to Turkey. The US had strong feelings of friendship and understanding toward Turkey. The Secretary wished to convey to the Prime Minister and to the Government and people of Turkey the personal best wishes of President Carter. In the short period that he had been Secretary of State he had often discussed with the President the common interests we share with Turkey. We agree fully that Turkey must be strong. The Secretary recalled that a year ago as a Senator he had undertaken at the request of the President a mission to Europe, including West Germany where the top item for discussion was the Turkish aid package. Chancellor Schmidt had exercised effective leadership. We continued to be very supportive in all ways we could of that initiative.

13. The Secretary noted that the U.S. bilateral aid program for Turkey was one of the largest during a period of budget austerity and general unpopularity in Congress of foreign aid. We recognized that as [Page 460] a NATO member, the strength of Turkey was important to the Alliance and that the events of the past six months had further enhanced the need for stability in the area. The Secretary stressed that there should be no doubt about US willingness to be as helpful as we could since our mutual interest was served.

14. Following these opening remarks, the Secretary told the Prime Minister that he would like to raise several specific subjects. The US very much appreciated Turkey’s support on the Olympic boycott. The latest information was that some 62 countries would not be in Moscow.

15. The Secretary said he was aware of and appreciated Turkey’s interest in the hostage problem. We were undertaking quiet, indirect diplomatic approaches in an effort to persuade Iran to release the hostages. He hoped that other countries, even those which had not imposed sanctions, would refrain from full normal relations with Iran since, as the Prime Minister had said, all governments were affected. As a neighbor, Turkey might have an opportunity to influence the Iranian decision process and we would welcome any help that could be provided.

16. The Secretary said that based on Under Secretary Nimetz’ visit to Athens on June 23, he believed the Government of Greece wants very much to rejoin NATO and to do so as soon as possible.5 He thought the US and Turkey must find ways to make that possible. General Rogers was working on the problem with the Turkish General Staff and other NATO military authorities and had received good cooperation. Rogers and NATO would set the terms and conditions but the Secretary wanted the GOT to know of our strong interest in early reintegration. This devolved in part because our facilities in Greece served NATO defense objectives. Greek reintegration was an important objective for the US and Greece; the Greek elections in 1981 could result in a change in climate that would affect resolution of this issue.

17. Regarding Cyprus, the Secretary said he recognized that the Prime Minister knew of the interest of Congress and the widespread frustration that there had been no movement in the last year or two. It would greatly help both Turkey and the US if ways could be found to get a Cyprus solution moving. The situation was stagnant. He recognized that Demirel had other problems but he wanted to emphasize our interest in a Cyprus settlement. The Secretary said he did not fully understand the recent problems with UN intercommunal talks but he hoped something could be done.6

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18. With respect to debt rescheduling, the Secretary said that Congress is sometimes very reluctant to see debt relief granted and that this consideration did not involve just Turkey. There were budgetary aspects and we ordinarily engaged in debt rescheduling only in cases of greatest urgency. However, we would continue to study this matter on returning to Washington.

19. At the suggestion of the Secretary, Ambassador Spain noted Executive Branch and congressional interest in early Turkish ratification of the Prisoner Transfer Treaty.7 He noted that there were four long term prisoners in Turkish prisons and asked about the Parliamentary prospects. The Prime Minister said it would go through Parliament.

20. Ambassador said he had been impressed in his recent consultations with Congress about the wide appreciation of Turkish democracy as well as the contribution Turkey makes to the strength of the free world. The Secretary said there indeed was a new appreciation of the strategic importance of Turkey. We also had a different perception of the Persian Gulf which further increased our mutual interests with Turkey. Both national interest and shared values were arguments buttressing the importance of helping Turkey and further strengthening of ties. He thought Congress wanted to be supportive but that Turkey’s help was also needed.

21. Demirel stressed that Turkey was not against reintegration of Greek forces into NATO and recognized that it was in the interest of Turkey and all the other Allies. Greek forces would be welcome to come back although he noted that no one had pushed Greece from NATO. However, things had changed and there were disputes about the continental shelf and lines relating to air space. When such lines were called borders it became even more difficult. Demirel said he had talked to General Rogers and there had been frank conversations with the Chief of TGS. The GOT was willing to agree to a reasonable solution, one which could be defended to Turkish public opinion. He recognized that the GOG had its own public opinion to consider. He recalled that the GOG had refused proposals made by both General Rogers and General Haig but he thought this question should and could be worked out in military channels.

22. On Cyprus, Demirel said he thought the Greek Cypriots still wanted to go back to the pre-1974 situation. The two communities simply could not live together again. They needed to live separately with a line between two zones but within a federal state. Turkey was [Page 462] willing to have a Cyprus agreement. He noted, however, that Cyprus had been quiet for six years, the longest such period in modern history. Cyprus was costly to Turkey. Agreement on a federal system with federated states for the two communities would be the key to an agreement. Even Archbishop Makarios had accepted bizonality before his death but the Greek Cypriots subsequently retreated from that position. The Turkish side was willing to negotiate and was not causing trouble. He had stressed to UN Secretary General Waldheim in Belgrade that the Turkish side would be reasonable.

23. The Secretary asked whether in a bizonal system there could be any shifting of territory. Demirel said territory was subject to negotiation. Under Secretary Nimetz noted how hard it was even to get intercommunal negotiations started; there had been not much more than 10 hours at the table in the last 3½ years. Demirel said there was no other way. The people on the island who would have to live together must negotiate together. Nimetz said there is a Greek perception that Denktash will not start negotiating until the Greek Cypriots agree to all his pre-conditions, particularly bizonality. Demirel said that was not correct, but there could be no solution so long as they rejected bizonality. In response to a question from Ambassador Spain, the Turkish side said that the Government of Greece would not talk about Cyprus bilaterally with Turkey.

24. Demirel returned again to the importance of a favorable rescheduling of Turkey’s debt covering about $1 billion for all countries in 1981/82. He did not think the burden would be that great for the US and it would be a great help to Turkey. The US role was very important. The Secretary said we would look into it again and would consider what could be done. We had solved other problems together and perhaps this one could be resolved as well. He recognized debt scheduling was part of an integrated package. He had discussed this with Ambassador Spain and also noted that Turkey had been on the minds of the seven summit countries at Venice.8 It had also been mentioned in a conversation with Schmidt.

25. In response to the Secretary’s question about current political developments in Turkey, Demirel thought that barring unforeseen developments, he would have the necessary votes to defeat a censure motion which was being discussed in the Parliament immediately after the meeting with the Secretary. The actual critical vote would be next week. In response to the Secretary’s comment that Demirel did not look under tension, the Prime Minister said he “loved fights”; democracy [Page 463] was not easy but it was “beautiful”. He recalled the frequent censure motions his party had defeated in the 1965/71 and 1975/78 periods. Demirel stressed, however, that he would welcome early elections since he felt in a strong political position.

26. In addition to the Secretary, US participants included Ambassador Spain, Under Secretary Nimetz, Assistant Secretary Vest, Ambassador Bennett, and EUR/Deputy Assistant Secretary Ewing (note taker). Demirel was accompanied by Foreign Minister Erkmen, MFA Secretary General Yigit and several other officials and interpreters from the Prime Minister’s office and the Foreign Ministry.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Subject Files of Edmund S. Muskie, 1963–1981, Lot 83D66, Box 2, unlabeled folder. Secret; Immediate; Exdis.Sent for information to Athens, Bonn, Nicosia, Madrid, USNATO, USNMR SHAPE, USDOCOSouth Naples, and USUN. In a covering note to L. Paul Bremer, III (S/S), John H. Kelly (S/S–S) commented: “The Secretary said we would look into what could be done on Turkish debt rescheduling.” (Ibid.) Muskie was in Ankara June 24–26 for the NATO Ministerial meeting.
  2. Telegram Secto 4035, June 25, is in the National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P890018–0472. The telegram summarized Muskie’s meetings with Demirel and Greek Foreign Minister Mitsotakis, both on June 24. For the meeting with Mitsotakis, see footnote 3, Document 203.
  3. On May 22, the Turkish Government decided to join the international boycott of the Olympic winter games to be held in Moscow. The boycott, led by the United States, signaled each participating nation’s protest of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Carter sent Demirel a message congratulating him on his “difficult but important decision” to boycott the games. “Nowhere is this message more meaningful,” Carter wrote, “than in the vital region of the world where Turkey is located.” (Telegram 135348 to Ankara, May 23; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800253–0106)
  4. The OECD Consortium to Aid Turkey began negotiations in Paris in June on rescheduling $2.2 billion of Turkey’s debts to foreign governments. (Ann Crittenden, “I.M.F. Grants Turkey Record $1.6 Billion Loan,” The New York Times, June 19, 1980, p. D1)
  5. See Document 203.
  6. See Document 77.
  7. Reference is to the International Prisoner Transfer Program. The United States began in 1977 to negotiate treaties with other countries to allow prisoners to be transferred from the country in which they were incarcerated to their native country. Turkey entered into an agreement with the United States on January 1, 1981. (32 UST 3187)
  8. The Venice G–7 Summit, attended by the leaders of the United States, Canada, France, the Federal Republic of Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the President of the European Commission, took place June 22–23.