17. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • The Secretary
  • Senator Paul Sarbanes
  • Congressman John Brademas
  • Counselor Matthew Nimetz
  • Assistant Secretary George Vest
  • Deputy Assistant Secretary Brian Atwood
  • Legislative Assistant to Senator Sarbanes, Cliff Hackett


  • Discussion of Eastern Mediterranean with Senator Sarbanes and Congressman Brademas

Brademas and Sarbanes initiated this meeting with the Secretary to discuss the Administration’s FY 1979 budget request for Greece, Turkey and Cyprus and other related subjects. Paul Sarbanes opened, saying that the purpose of the visit was to get “your thinking” on the current situation in the Aegean. He said the fiscal ’79 budget request would be the first made by this Administration and would therefore be scrutinized carefully by the Greek-American community and by the countries involved. He realized that the vagaries of the budget cycle had forced difficult decisions on the Administration, perhaps prematurely. Our actions, whether we like it or not, would be read as signals of our intentions.

The Secretary replied that both the Greek and Turkish DCAs had been negotiated and are “in place.” The budgetary “numbers” we are considering would represent the amounts necessary for implementation of these agreements. He indicated that were the DCAs not acted upon, “different numbers would be operative.” The major “footnote” to the Administration’s budgetary request was the question of progress on Cyprus. In that regard, we are “cautiously optimistic” that the Turkish government is “getting around to taking serious steps on Cyprus.” We hope to get the intercommunal talks reconvened where discussions can take place on the difficult territorial and constitutional questions. We feel it important that both the Turkish and Greek governments participate in the talks. This is important because of their [Page 72] ability to exert influence over Denktash and the Greek-Cypriot government. So far we have had some expressions of interest on the part of the Greeks but are not sure whether they will agree to participate.

The Secretary said that he was meeting with both the Greek and Turkish Foreign Ministers in Brussels and that he would have a better feel for the prospects for progress on Cyprus after those meetings.2 He added that there should be a “line item” on Cyprus, but he was not sure of the amount. If we were to achieve a Cyprus settlement, it may be necessary to request additional appropriations for Cyprus perhaps in a supplemental request.

Referring to the Administration’s policy on the Turkish DCA, Sarbanes said that he was concerned that “the modalities have been frozen” because of Kissinger’s four-year, $1 billion agreement with Turkey.3 This agreement, he said, precludes step-by-step movement toward a settlement in that it restricts our ability to respond. We need to “break out of this pattern” and to “find something short of the DCA” as a response to less than complete movement by the Turks. Brademas added that we must consider “a variety of graduated responses,” and adopt an “action-for-action” strategy.

Sarbanes said that he thought a broader question was involved in that the concept of four-year DCAs is one which should undergo careful scrutiny within the Administration. He said that we are currently burdened by this approach and that countries such as the Philippines and Grenada were able to exert great leverage over us (he added parenthetically that the Prime Minister of Grenada had come to see him recently with a pitch for a multi-year aid contract with the United States for continued use of communications facilities on the island.) He suggested telling the Turks that they were “caught up in a broader policy (re DCAs)” and that the DCA is no longer valid.

The Secretary said that he had thought a great deal about the broader problem and believed it would be best to “move away from that pattern.” However, that is a long range issue, and he is not sure that it can be done in this case. He said that he could not give an answer “at this time.” Sarbanes reiterated his view that we must find a way to respond if the Turks move some part of the way toward a Cyprus settlement. Failure to approve the DCA, he said, would not be as traumatic for the Turks were we to place a change of position on the Turkish DCA in the broader framework of a general policy toward DCAs around the world.

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Sarbanes then asked the Secretary to assess the recent Greek elections. The Secretary said that he was somewhat disappointed with the result, that Caramanlis suffered some but that he still had a broad margin and should have sufficient power to deal with the problems of his country. He said that it was still too early to see what the election would mean in terms of the US-Greek relationship. We would soon send a new Ambassador to Greece. “As you know, I feel that Bill Schaufele got a raw deal.”4 He said that our new ambassador is a good choice and that we expect him to be well received. He then asked the two to offer their views on the Greek election.

Sarbanes said that he was concerned over the results, that (Andreas) Papandreou had “vaulted” into a powerful position using an anti-American theme. This raises questions as to “what happens the next time,” and underscores the urgency of resolving the Cyprus matter. Brademas said that Papandreou is a “dangerous man.” He expressed concern that we may be taking Greece for granted. In a meeting at the White House some months ago the President appeared “cavalier” in that he seemed to assume that Greece would always be a close ally.5 “If Caramanlis died we would have serious problems,” Brademas said.

The Secretary said that it was his belief that Caramanlis would like to resolve the major issues which confront Greece. He would like to leave as his legacy a strong Greece, united with Europe in the Common Market and NATO.

Brademas then asked what the Administration proposes to do with the Greek DCA. The Secretary said that he certainly hopes the Greek government will sign the DCA, but that he would learn more about their position at Brussels. Sarbanes opined that the Greek DCA “plays into Papandreou’s hands.” He feels that we should simply renegotiate a “status-of-force” relationship with Greece and drop the DCA. The Secretary said that he felt this would be interpreted in Greece as a sign of weakness on Caramanlis’ part since his government had negotiated the DCA and had advocated it publicly. Sarbanes disagreed and said that Caramanlis’ public position was that if the Turks had a four-year agreement with the United States, Greece should too.

The Secretary then asked whether a reduction in the period of the Turkish DCA from four to two years would make a difference on the Hill. Sarbanes said that he could not comment on such a proposal without knowing what the Turks were prepared to do on Cyprus. “Let [Page 74] us assume that the Turks are prepared to undertake real drawdowns and other positive actions on Cyprus,” the Secretary said.

Sarbanes responded that that did not “get me very far” because a military drawdown on Cyprus would offer the appearance of change with no real change. He said there would be no actual movement on the island in that the Turks would still be able to maintain military control over the Northern sector. Congress went to $175 million (in FMS credits), an increase of 40 percent over the previous amount, and there was still no movement on the part of the Turks. The Greek-American community is now asking why Turkey should get any money in Fiscal 1979. Brademas said that the two had met with Foreign Minister Caglayangil of Turkey who told them that Turkey was ready to be helpful on Cyprus. Despite this, he said, there had been no actual movement. “If the Turks really want to do something, fine, but we must match action for action,” Brademas said.

The Secretary then asked the two for their views on what would be an appropriate action by the Turks, “a withdrawal of forces?” Sarbanes said that this would not be significant if Turkey continued to maintain its military dominance. Brademas said that movement must be tangible and irreversible and mentioned reopening the road from Nicosia to Famagusta and opening the Nicosia airport.

Sarbanes wondered whether the President and the Vice President were aware of the increasing restlessness in the Greek-American community. He attributed the restlessness to: (1) the role we played at the United Nations on the Cyprus Resolution this year and our decision to abstain;6 (2) the recent story in the New York Times which quoted American sources as saying that the Turks had threatened to expel US forces by Spring;7 (3) the discovery of a loophole wherein Turkey purchased military items from the NATO supply center in apparent contravention of the embargo; and (4) Hodding Carter’s “even-handed” letter on the Cyprus problem. Brademas said that Greek-Americans are “hot under the collar.” Sarbanes said that the Mayor of Hartford, Connecticut recently wrote an open letter to the President highly critical of the Administration’s Cyprus policy.8

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Brademas asked what the Administration is doing to get across to Turkey that the time for action is now. The Secretary said that we have made it clear to the Turks that they must move now. In spite of Demirel’s weak government, we hoped that Turkey would still be able to move on Cyprus.

Sarbanes then asked about the Cyprus elections. The Secretary said that Kyprianou has indicated that he would be somewhat limited in what he could do during this transition period. “That is why we need Greek participation in the Cyprus talks,” he added.

Sarbanes then reiterated that the budget document was extremely important and said that last year’s budget proposal was unacceptable. He said that the Turks had made no movement on Cyprus and that their inaction had made it difficult for him and other Members of Congress to justify the increase to $175 million. Matt Nimetz said that there had been some movement and that recent Turkish statements were significant in that they held the promise of additional movement. He said that they recently agreed to allow Greek hotel owners to move back into Varosha to reopen that Greek resort area.9

Brian Atwood said that in light of the Administration’s endorsement in principle of the Turkish DCA, it would be inconsistent to request less money than that necessary to implement the DCA. It could be made clear that the requested amounts were subject to approval of the DCA and that there would therefore be no indication of a change in the Administration’s policy. He asked whether Brademas and Sarbanes might explain to the Greek-American community that it was important to retain these amounts in the budget “as a carrot” so that Turkey would have an incentive to negotiate on Cyprus. Brademas said that he thought that approach might be workable but that the descriptive language used in the budget document was extremely important. The Secretary said that it was our inclination to use “the carrot” and he agreed that the descriptive language was important.

Brademas then raised the NAMSA (the Nato Military Supply Agency) question and cited a recent speech by Lee Hamilton criticizing the Defense Department for allowing the Turks to purchase American equipment from this source.10 Sarbanes said that the NAMSA matter has raised broader questions as to whether the US military and NATO were in line with the Administration’s policy. Brademas said that US [Page 76] military commanders undercut the Administration when they make public statements criticizing the embargo. He asked whether our NATO allies understood the need to urge Turkey to resolve the Cyprus problem. The Secretary said that the British clearly understand our policy and that the West Germans have also been quite helpful. Matt Nimetz observed that NATO countries are obviously interested in strengthening NATO but that they realize that a resolution of the Cyprus problem may be the key to a restoration of the Southern flank.

The meeting ended amicably with the Secretary and the two legislators agreeing to keep in close touch.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Bureau of Congressional Relations, Subject Files and Chrons 1977/78/79/80, Files of Assistant Secretary J. Brian Atwood, Lot 81D115, Box 4, Greece/Turkey/Cyprus. Confidential; Exdis. Drafted by Atwood on December 14; cleared in draft by Nimetz and Vest . Copies were sent to Nimetz, Vest, Bennet, Ledsky, and Ewing. The meeting took place in Vance’s office.
  2. See Documents 104 and 172.
  3. The U.S.-Turkish Defense Cooperation Agreement was signed on March 26, 1976, but Congress did not approve it because of the arms embargo. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XXX, Greece; Cyprus; Turkey, 1973–1976, Documents 240, 241, and 247.
  4. Carter nominated Schaufele , former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Ambassador to Greece on June 23, but the Greek Government protested the nomination. See footnote 2, Document 169.
  5. Presumably Brademas is referring to the April 22 meeting. See Document 13.
  6. The United States abstained from UN General Assembly Resolution 32/15 on November 9, on the grounds that the Resolution, which expressed “concern over the lack of progress at the intercommunal talks,” focused excessively on past tensions instead of looking ahead to future solutions. The United States also objected that the Resolution artificially inflated the threat of the Cyprus dispute to world peace. See Yearbook of the United Nations, 1977, p. 359. The text of the Resolution is on pp. 366–367.
  7. U.S. Denies Troop Ouster is Threatened by Turkey,” The New York Times, December 1, 1977, p. A9.
  8. Neither Hodding Carter’s letter nor the letter from the Mayor of Hartford, Connecticut, was found.
  9. The Greek Cypriot population of Varosha, an area of the city of Famagusta on the eastern shore of the island, was evacuated in the wake of the Turkish invasion in 1974. During the intercommunal negotiations between Makarios and Denktash in January and February 1977, Makarios called for the return of 35,000 Greek Cypriots to Varosha. See footnote 5, Document 31.
  10. Hamilton’s speech is printed in the Congressional Record, November 25, 1977, pp. 37915–37916.