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


  • The Eastern Mediterranean—Post-Embargo Initiatives

In our efforts to secure repeal of the Turkish arms embargo, we have consistently stressed that lifting the embargo is only the essential [Page 93] first step toward breaking the impasse in the Eastern Mediterranean. In light of the expectations in the Congress and the region of new American initiatives, alone or in conjunction with others, it is important that we begin moving promptly once we are sure of the ultimate result in the Congress. There is a strong assumption that the United States will mount an active offensive to obtain early progress on Cyprus. There is also a clear expectation that embargo repeal will lead to the expeditious opening of U.S. facilities in Turkey. Action geared toward reducing the negative impact of the lifting of the embargo in Greece and Cyprus is also anticipated.

In charting a comprehensive strategy toward the area in the immediate aftermath of embargo repeal as well as over the next several months, we need a clear understanding of our priorities and ways to deal with them effectively.

Karamanlis and the Greek Government appear reconciled to repeal of the embargo, although to deflect opposition, media, and public concern they will continue to criticize our action, probably in muted, cautious tones. Most importantly, the Greeks will seek in the period following the lifting of the embargo to achieve several priority political goals: namely, they will expect the United States to pressure the Turks to accommodate Greek conditions for its return to NATO; they will anticipate a more active U.S. role in extracting meaningful Turkish concessions on Cyprus; they will attempt to get U.S. support in their Aegean differences with Turkey; and they will want to maintain the current military balance with Turkey.

In the period following embargo repeal, Ecevit will expect and welcome an active U.S. effort to bring Turkey back toward a full contribution to the Alliance. He will probably accept U.S. activities to promote progress on Cyprus. The Turks, however, will be very wary of any such effort which seems to represent new heavy pressure. They have also listened carefully to some of the arguments made to and in the Congress regarding the woeful shape of the Turkish defense structure and the extremely important geographic and military contribution which Turkey makes to the West. These arguments will lead them to expect a significant level of military assistance in 1980. Ecevit will also seek to find ways to show that his interest in revitalizing the Turkish-American relationship has borne fruit beyond the simple removal of the negative symbolism which the embargo had come to represent. In this regard, the Turks will particularly seek commitments of U.S. and Allied economic and financial assistance to help overcome their continuing severe economic difficulties. The Turks will expect us to insist on immediate reopening of our facilities in Turkey, but may try to bargain this against U.S. military supply and/or economic aid. While negotia[Page 94]tions will undoubtedly prove to be difficult, we hope to achieve rapid resumption of activities at these facilities.

The Greek Cypriots will be bitter and resentful in the wake of repeal of the embargo. Given their apparently genuine belief in its efficacy as a pressure tactic, they cannot but regard removal of the embargo as a severe setback to their hopes, rather than as an opportunity for progress. There is likely to be a temporary surge in anti-Americanism in the press and in the political realm. However, many responsible political and Foreign Ministry people believe that, having eliminated the embargo, the United States will have assumed a much greater burden of responsibility vis-a-vis Cyprus. This may well be translated into an expectation that we will now exert much heavier pressure on Turkey. We anticipate that Kyprianou, Rolandis, Pelaghias and others will be willing to work actively with us to lay the foundation for a resumption of talks and will want to share their views and ideas with us.2

While the Turkish Cypriots will be pleased with removal of the embargo, it is unlikely that this step alone will induce them to be more flexible and conciliatory towards the Greek Cypriots. Ankara will have to continue to exert determined and consistent pressure but both the Turks and the Turkish Cypriots may resist U.S. and/or Western European efforts to become more actively involved in the substance of the Cyprus issue.

Against this backdrop of promises made or implied as well as expectations in the area, George Vest and I think our short and medium term area objectives should be the following:3



—Restore a sense of trust and vitality to US-Greek relations, in part by directing the focus of our bilateral relationship away from dominant military security aspects to bilateral cooperation in the economic, scientific and cultural areas, possibly through the establishment of joint working groups.

—Facilitate an early return to NATO on terms satisfactory to Greece and to the Alliance.

—Encourage continuation of Greek/Turkish efforts peacefully to resolve Aegean issues while avoiding U.S. involvement in the substance of the controversy or the provision of a binding security guarantee.

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—Indicate a willingness to proceed with the negotiated but unsigned US-Greek defense cooperation agreement with deletion of the multi-year financial provision.


—Secure early Turkish agreement on activation of closed facilities and normalization of our defense presence in Turkey.4

—Begin a process of dialogue with the Turks on long-range military questions, including the role and equipment requirements of the Turkish military and how the U.S. and other Alliance members can and cannot assist in filling these requirements.

—Listen to Turkish ideas on revitalizing our bilateral non-defense relationship while making clear to them that our ability to provide economic/financial aid is limited by our budgetary constraints and that the Turkish Government itself must get its economy under control.


—Assist in breaking the current negotiating impasse, working in close conjunction with the U.N. Secretary General; the British, French, Germans, and Canadians; and directly with the parties in order to achieve a basis for early talks.

—Achieve rapid and visible progress toward resettlement of Varosha.5

—Encourage the Cypriot parties to resolve humanitarian and technical issues such as missing persons and the reopening of Nicosia Airport.


It is obvious that these objectives must be approached over different time periods. For example, negotiations with Turkey on reopening the facilities and an effort to facilitate NATO re-entry should resume very quickly; a Cyprus settlement will certainly not be achieved this year, but progress on Varosha could be significant. As we move forward to improve our relations with all countries, we must be careful that in seeking to achieve one goal we do not jeopardize opportunities with respect to others. In addition, we must be aware of the limitations of our influence and the risk of interjecting ourselves too directly in the substance of Greek/Turkish bilateral disputes.

Recommended Actions:

1. Soon after it is clear that the embargo will be lifted, the President should send messages to Karamanlis and Kyprianou reaffirming our intentions to work actively on Cyprus and to strengthen our relations with both countries.6

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2. A message should also be sent to Ecevit. I recommend a telephone call from the President after the House vote. We are preparing talking points. A written message may also be appropriate after the conference meets to resolve Senate/House differences. We should convey to Ecevit our particular interest in seeing Greek/NATO entry move forward, our strong desire for early Cyprus progress (particularly Varosha), and the importance to us of early base reopening. On the latter point, negotiating instructions are being prepared in State/Defense, and we plan to send a team to start negotiations very soon.7

3. With regard to Cyprus, we should move simultaneously on at least three tracks:

a) We have agreed with the UK, FRG, France and Canada to work together on the Cyprus problem and preliminary work should begin soon. We have discussed with the British the first steps in this process, including the circulation of documents and a possible meeting of experts in Washington or London in September. Further consultations on this process should be undertaken without publicity.8

b) We should also work in close conjunction with the United Nations to support their efforts on specific matters such as Varosha, Nicosia Airport reopening, establishment of the missing persons committee. We should lose no time in working with the U.N. to reconcile the Greek and Turkish Cypriot proposals on Varosha in order to demonstrate visible progress.9

c) We know that elements of the Cypriot Government, including even Kyprianou, believe that only the U.S. can really achieve movement toward a Cyprus solution. We have been told that an early visit to Cyprus would be welcome by the Cypriot Government and also demonstrate U.S. concern. Such a visit should be considered for an early date, perhaps early September, or even during the week following the embargo vote. Clark Clifford has been perceived during the Congressional debate as rather pro-Turkish and I doubt that we should risk sending him to the island when the Greek Cypriots will publicly be feeling antagonistic towards us. I would suggest instead that we discuss with the Cypriots the idea of my making the trip with a very small team. We would sound out the parties on Cyprus and try to lay the groundwork for our future activities.

4. Consideration should also be given to visits to Greece and Turkey in the near future, perhaps in conjunction with a Cyprus trip. Discussions with the Turks on the base agreement, NATO military cooperation and similar subjects would be useful. We will want particularly both in Ankara and in Brussels to make clear that it is important to [Page 97] see early positive movement of Greece into NATO. A high-level visit to Greece would help further to reassure the Greeks of our general approach to the area. A political visit in the region by the Vice President should also be considered for 1979, depending on progress in various areas.10

5. With regard to the Aegean and Greece-Turkey bilateral relations, we should continue to welcome and encourage the current promising dialogue which is taking place at several levels. We should, however, not involve ourselves in the substance of the various issues since to do so would involve taking sides and getting into very intricate and controversial issues.

We would welcome your reaction to these ideas.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Records of Counselor Nimetz, 1977–1980, Lot 81D85, Box 2, Eastern Mediterranean—1978. Confidential. Drafted by Ewing; cleared by Vest and Anton DePorte (S/P).
  2. Vance drew a vertical line in the margin adjacent to this sentence and wrote a question mark. He also underlined “Kyprianou.”
  3. Vance approved each of the following objectives—subject to several handwritten instructions noted below—by writing “ok” in the margin next to each.
  4. Vance wrote “should be soon” in the margin adjacent to this recommendation.
  5. Vance wrote “important to do now” in the margin adjacent to this recommendation.
  6. Vance wrote “yes” in the margin adjacent to this paragraph.
  7. In the margin adjacent to the recommendation that Carter should call Ecevit, Vance wrote “done.” In the margin adjacent to the recommendation that Carter should consider a written message to Ecevit as well, Vance wrote in the margin, “ok.”
  8. Vance wrote “good” in the margin adjacent to this recommendation.
  9. Vance wrote “yes” in the margin adjacent to this recommendation and underlined “We should lose no time in working.”
  10. In the margin adjacent to the recommendation for future trips to Greece and Turkey, Vance wrote “who?