3. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Secretary of State-designate Cyrus R. Vance
  • Senator-elect Paul Sarbanes
  • Representative John Brademas
  • Representative Benjamin Rosenthal
  • Clifford Hackett, Congressional Staff
  • Edward Davey, Congressional Staff
  • Richard Moose, Carter Transition Team, Department of State
  • Peter Tarnoff, Executive Assistant to the Secretary-designate

Brademas began by telling Mr. Vance that the Congressmen were concerned about rumors that he was under pressure from the outgoing administration to allow the Turkish DCA to go forward to the Congress in early January. Mr. Vance said that no pressures had been applied, but that he had been asked whether he would object to such a move. Brademas responded that it would be an “extremely dangerous mistake” to resubmit the DCA to Congress immediately despite the view held by the “career people at State” that a Democratic President will be better able to influence the Democratic Congress on this issue. He added that it would be “disastrous” to have an immediate confronta [Page 7] tion on the DCA and that Mr. Vance should do what he can to avoid being “squeezed” between the outgoing administration and Congress.

Sarbanes said that Mr. Vance had considerable “running room” on this issue as long as he allowed it to lie dormant for awhile. Sending the DCA up to Congress now would place the issue “front and center” and force hostile Democratic Congressmen to respond negatively. Delaying its submission to Congress could be explained by the need to review all multi-year arms supply agreements, including the Greek DCA which has not yet been concluded.

Brademas said that it would be a mistake to assume that the conclusion of a DCA agreement with Greece would satisfy Congress and allow passage of the Turkish DCA as long as there was no progress on Cyprus. He added that the two DCA’s raised important budgetary questions: should the U.S. pay $1.7 billion to two NATO allies? Sarbanes mentioned that delaying submission of the DCA would signal to the Congress that the new administration is rethinking its policies in the area, without interrupting the flow of arms to Turkey that is now proceeding. Brademas said that he strongly supported allowing $170 million in FMS to go to Ankara despite Turkish “colonization” of much of Cyprus, a move that will shortly be condemned by the Council of Europe. Mr. Vance then pointed out that Greece had also been guilty of violations of neutrality in the area.

Rosenthal stated that the new administration’s position on Cyprus should be based on consultation with those who have opposed the current State Department position, and Mr. Vance replied that he very much wanted Congressional input on this and other issues. Rosenthal continued that submission of the DCA would be an “offensive act,” and that Governor Carter and Mr. Vance should “stop everything” and “put the machine in neutral.” They should rethink the Cyprus problem from scratch, change American ambassadors to the three concerned countries, and send a fact-finder to visit the area. No DCA’s should be submitted until the Cyprus question is resolved and the new administration comes up with sweeping new policies on how to regulate U.S. arms sales worldwide which are now totalling $11–12 billion a year.

Mr. Vance then indicated that if he advised Secretary Kissinger against submitting the DCA now, the current administration would hold it back. Mr. Vance added that he might well proceed to change some of the American ambassadors in the area.

Brademas commented that Makarios is likely to be much more flexible on the terms of a settlement with the new American administration, and that he had clear and persuasive evidence to this effect. Sarbanes said that a Cyprus settlement is possible now, and that Mr. Vance had much more “running room” on the issue than did Secretary Kissinger. Rosenthal added that if Mr. Vance tells the Congress that certain [Page 8] parties are acting unreasonably in the Cyprus dispute, he will be believed in a way that Secretary Kissinger was not.

Brademas asserted that the Turkish General Staff will compromise on Cyprus but that Secretary Kissinger had never really pushed the Turks. When Secretary Kissinger showed the Department’s reporting cables from Ankara to Brademas, it was obvious to him that no real pressure had been applied on Ankara. Brademas stated that he fully recognized the need to keep Turkey in NATO. Sarbanes suggested that the West Europeans—especially the Germans and Italians—could be helpful in mediating the Cyprus dispute. Rosenthal pledged that the Congressmen would “keep quiet” until the new administration had put together a “package” on Cyprus.

Mr. Vance then offered to share his thinking on the issue with the Congressmen. He read the text of the five Cyprus principles that Secretary Kissinger had wanted to offer to the interested parties as a basis for negotiation, and that had been approved by the members of the European Community.2 Representatives of the Greek Government have told Mr. Vance of Caramanlis’ desire to have a Cyprus settlement on equitable terms. Turkish Foreign Minister Caglayangil sent Mr. Vance a letter in which he expressed concern about the state of relations between the U.S. and Turkey and asked that Mr. Vance see Ambassador Turkmen.3

Turkmen then told Mr. Vance that the political situation in Turkey was still very tense with public opinion highly inflamed on the Cyprus issue. The DCA was very important to Turkey, and failure to pass it would drastically reduce American leverage in Ankara although the Turks would not leave NATO if rebuffed. Turkmen said that the Turkish military was not dictating the government’s Cyprus policies, although the generals did determine the size of the Turkish forces that were needed for the portion of Cyprus being occupied. If the DCA were passed, Turkey would move ahead on Cyprus. Turkmen added that he was fairly optimistic that the talks between Greece and Turkey on the Aegean would make some progress. The representatives of the Cypriot Government who had sought out Mr. Vance were much more specific. They had come with a map of the island with proposed divisions between the two communities and had stated that their views must be taken into account, warning that no settlement should be negotiated over their heads.

[Page 9]

The Congressmen replied that they saw the present Cyprus situation much in the same way as Mr. Vance. Sarbanes expressed regret that Secretary Kissinger had turned down a proposal that Senator Eagleton and then Secretary of Defense Schlesinger had discussed which would have involved a “step-by-step” plan beginning with President Ford exercising his waiver rights to allow up to $100 million to go to Turkey despite the imposition by Congress of an arms embargo.4 Following this move Ankara would have allowed some Greek refugees to return to Turkish-occupied territory. Secretary Kissinger argued that the Turks rejected this formula, but Sarbanes expressed the view that Ankara was never really urged by the U.S. to accept it. He said that it may no longer be possible to work out a “step-by-step” scenario in the Cyprus dispute.

Mr. Vance conveyed his view that Turkey was prepared to compromise, but that a way must be found to permit Ankara to change its position without appearing to be forced into backing down publicly. The Congressmen agreed and said that they “have the same problem.” Mr. Vance pointed out Makarios’ resistance to sign anything that recognized a bi-zonal Cyprus. The Congressmen then disagreed among themselves about whether it was clear that Makarios is prepared to be more flexible.

Sarbanes said that if Mr. Vance sent an emissary to Greece, Turkey and Cyprus who came back and convinced Congress of the worth of a new set of proposals to end the dispute, the Congress would then bring “pressure” on Makarios and Caramanlis, help enlist the support of the West Europeans, and vote sufficient aid funds to sweeten the package. Sarbanes added that “time is not on Makarios’ side.” Rosenthal commented that Mr. Vance brought with him “fresh air, objectivity, credibility” and that Congress would cooperate in effecting a settlement that leave each of the three interested parties “somewhat unhappy.” He added the view that the Turks are also looking for a way out, since they do not want to be ostracized by Western Europe and the U.S. The Turkish economy is faring poorly and outside help is needed. Turkey does not want to have to occupy Cyprus forever.

The Congressmen then summarized their views:

1. Nothing should be done on the Cyprus issue in the coming weeks that would force confrontation between the Congress and the administration; and

2. The new administration should announce that it is taking a new look at the problem, name new American ambassadors in the region, [Page 10] and send an emissary to the three contending countries while working quietly behind the scenes to prepare a solution.

Mr. Vance replied that he had already been considering the advisability of sending an emissary to visit the area in order to study the Cyprus problem. The most difficult problem would be determining how much territory will remain under Turkish control. The interested parties, not the U.S., should supply proposals for a division of the island between the two communities, and then proceed to negotiate together. Makarios nevertheless remains a problem. The West Europeans could be helpful, but it is still uncertain how rapidly a solution can be worked out.

[Omitted here is a portion of the conversation unrelated to the Eastern Mediterranean.]

  1. Source: Department of State, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Cyrus R. Vance, Secretary of State—1977–1980, Lot 84D241, Box 10, Memcons Vance Pre-Inaug. Limited Official Use. Drafted by Tarnoff on January 7, 1977.
  2. Kissinger laid out the five Cyprus principles in his speech “Building International Order,” delivered before the 30th United Nations General Assembly on September 22, 1975. (Department of State Bulletin, October 13, 1975, pp. 545–553)
  3. Not found.
  4. The waiver rights formulation was discussed in a conversation among Ford, Kissinger, and several members of Congress in June 1975. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XXX, Greece; Cyprus; Turkey, 1973–1976, Document 228.