16. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Summary of the President’s Meeting with Clark Clifford on Greece-Turkey-Cyprus Problem


  • President Jimmy Carter
  • Clark Clifford
  • Secretary Cyrus Vance
  • Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski
  • Matthew Nimetz
  • Paul B. Henze (Notetaker)

After greetings and preliminary remarks, Secretary Vance asked to make an opening statement:

Vance: I believe there is a real chance that the Turks are prepared to try to deal with the Cyprus problem—otherwise I would not be recom [Page 67] mending that we take up this problem now. If we do not deal with the problem, it will fester and get much worse. It is dangerous for NATO to have a weak Turkey. I do not think we should look at the situation in terms of whether Greek opposition is going to change over the next year or so. If we do not deal with the problem now, it is going to erupt. Even though there is a great deal of political risk involved—we may have a real fight—the importance of what can be achieved is worth that risk.

The President: How adamant are Congressional opponents?

Vance: The Greek lobby is strongly against doing anything. But they do not speak for all of the Congress. Zablocki’s view is that if he put this to a vote in his committee the Turkish DCA would carry. We probably have the votes to carry it in the House.

The President: But by the time we get to the Congress we will have some demonstrable evidence of Turkish concessions . . .

Clifford: We have learned a lot in nine months. The Turks have continued to be difficult as is their nature. They are deeply aggrieved by the actions our government—as if it were a unit—has taken, as they put it. One factor that has been demonstrated to me is the need we have to continue to back NATO all the way. Greece and Turkey constitute the southern anchor of NATO. Turkey has found no other course of action that would suit her purposes better than remaining in NATO. Because Turkey is very important to NATO, it is very important to us. Turkey has not cooperated well with us up to now.

We still have an interest in Cyprus—but as a matter of fact, Cyprus is just one smaller piece on the chessboard—it is Turkey and Greece and our efforts to prevent trouble between them that matter. We do not want to give the Soviets a chance to be real troublemakers in the Eastern Mediterranean. The Turks want the DCA—they say, “You sign it and we will get on.” It is of enormous significance to them. The military level of Turkey has been slipping downward rather fast. It will not take a lot of money to get them back in good shape. The DCA will do it.

Cy and I had an enormously successful meeting in New York during the UN session with Caglayangil alone.2 For the first time we had a breakthrough: Caglayangil said: “It is my government’s intention to settle the Cyprus matter.” Then he gave the reasons, including the fact that they have very serious problems in their economy. As we talked on, he gave us the impression that the Turkish Government is putting Cyprus high on its agenda; they are facing reality almost for the first time. Caglayangil said, “We intend to settle the question of Cyprus.” I believe him and know that Cy believed him at the time. But [Page 68] the Turks cannot go ahead and do all that our Greek friends would like them to do on Cyprus. The answer is that we and they must move contemporaneously. We want to face up to the decisions—it is the unanimous opinion of all of us that the President should decide that he is ready to proceed to persuade the Congress to pass the Turkish DCA. There are things the Turks can do—make some statements about settlement on Cyprus, e.g. They can start withdrawing troops. They can start talking about how the new government in Cyprus is to be constructed—Caglayangil said we should not worry about that, “We will work out a reasonable arrangement on the government.” Then there is the question of the dividing lines. The Turks can start talking about that. Caglayangil went back and talked to Demirel—the State Department now has word that Demirel’s government approves this approach and is prepared to move. So we must work together—they start to move toward a settlement and we plan the mounting of a campaign to get the Turkish DCA passed. We can do it. We can get the help of our military. George Brown said that they would go all-out to help us organize support in Congress. Al Haig will come back if we want him to. If people on the fence in Congress hear a strong military presentation, it will be difficult for the Greek Lobby to convince fence-sitters that there are other considerations that are more important.

We have initialled a Greek DCA. We would like the Greeks to be prepared to move with us on their DCA—we should move on both DCA’s in Congress together. I agree with Cy that there is a certain risk to the President and the government if we go ahead. But it is my conviction that there is a greater risk if we do not go ahead. I don’t know how long we could continue to hold the Turks in line otherwise. They have come in with a reasonable attitude. A rebuff from us would be quite serious. It is actually in the basic selfish interest of both the Greeks and the Turks for us to move ahead. So—if we are to be directed by the President to get ready there is a lot we could do to begin to mount a well planned presentation.

Brzezinski: I have a question. The memo outlines steps the Turks would take. The $93.7 million FMS determination for F–4’s is ready to be signed by the President.3 What steps are the Turks going to take in response?

Clifford: They are prepared to take concrete steps.

Vance: They have already made small troop withdrawals.

The President: Will Turkey publicly announce troop withdrawals?

Clifford: Yes.

[Page 69]

Nimetz explained the background on the Presidential Determination for the F–4’s and noted that it had been cleared with Brademas and with Sarbanes’ staff.4

Clifford: We can say that we know that they are making a good-faith effort to prepare for negotiations.

Vance: We should go forward with the $93.7 million and they can go forward with troop withdrawals. But there is a question whether we can go forward with anything more than this before the 20th of November—date of the Greek elections. More initiative on our part could cause problems in connection with the Greek elections.

The President: Why hasn’t there been direct Turkish and Greek involvement in the Cypriot discussions in the past?

Vance: Neither country wanted to get directly involved. The discussions have been a charade on both sides. The Turks are now willing to take a direct part, but we don’t yet know whether we can persuade the Greeks to do so. Caglayangil said that unless he had somebody at the table Denktash would not be flexible enough.

Clifford: I doubt that there is anything that can be done that will please the Greek Lobby—they do not want us to do anything for the Turks at all. They are adamantly opposed to the DCA with Turkey. They only grudgingly agreed to military aid. Their whole attitude is, “To hell with the Turks.” So of course we have to expect opposition from them and it is likely to continue but at the last meeting I had with them I had some indication that the degree of opposition had lessened somewhat.5

The President: I presume Karamanlis would not object.

Clifford: Karamanlis will probably complain but he will understand our position if we explain it firmly to him.

The President: He really aggravated me in London.6

Clifford: They both do this.

Vance: The Brademas people would rather see no Greek DCA than see the Turkish one passed.

The President: We just have to meet that attitude head-on—I am perfectly prepared to do it.

Vance: We might find Congress trying to cut back on the term of both DCA’s to two years. There is general sentiment for this.

Clifford: We must prepare for the argument that the Greek Lobby here will push: that Turkey is still in violation of the agreements about [Page 70] use of U.S. arms in 1974—we will just have to expect that.7 I believe that there will be enough sensible men in Congress who will see it clearly.

The President: And I will have to present it clearly, which I have not done.

Vance: Brademas will allege that this is a repudiation of promises made in the campaign—this worries the Vice President.

The President: I don’t believe that argument can be made. And the argument will not be valid if the Turks have begun to take constructive steps.

Clifford: The Greeks will deprecate the importance of the steps the Turks take.

Nimetz: We have to keep the pressure on the Turks. We must press them to the limit to be helpful.

Vance: If we make the decision to go forward we face the real question of when and to what degree we consult with the Greek Lobby in Congress.

The President: We will go ahead on these first steps. Cy and Clark will put together a strong briefing paper. I will have the Greek Lobby in and have it out with them. I will approach this in terms of my campaign commitment to settle this issue.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 36, Memcons: President: 11–12/77. Secret; Sensitive. Drafted by Henze, who initialed the memorandum. The meeting took place in the Oval Office.
  2. See Document 100.
  3. See Documents 101 and 102.
  4. Presidential Determination No. 78–1; see Document 102.
  5. See Document 14.
  6. See Document 166.
  7. Congress held that the Turkish invasion of northern Cyprus constituted an offensive act, thereby violating Turkey’s agreement that the arms it received from the United States would be used for defensive purposes only. In accordance with the 1975 Foreign Assistance Act, the United States imposed its embargo on arms to Turkey, effective February 5, 1975. (Congress and the Nation, vol. IV, 1973–1976, pp. 858–860) See also Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XXX, Greece; Cyprus; Turkey, 1973–1976, Document 217.