32. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Cyprus

    • President Makarios
    • Foreign Minister Christophides
  • US

    • Secretary Clark Clifford
    • Ambassador Crawford
    • Mr. Matthew Nimetz
    • Mr. Nelson Ledsky

President Makarios began the conversation by welcoming Clifford to Cyprus as the special envoy of President Carter. He said the people of Cyprus were pleased with the keen interest the new Administration had shown in the problems of the island, and its expression of willingness to work for a settlement. The US could play a decisive role, and the President said he was pleased the Carter Administration was prepared to help the parties move toward a solution. The President said he deeply appreciated this US interest and willingness to be involved.

[Page 122]

He then recounted the history of the intercommunal discussions.2 These, he said, had produced no results. The current Cyprus situation is deadlocked. The President described his recent meeting with Denktash, which he called a mild breakthrough.3 He said his two meetings represented an effort to find common ground through which negotiations could proceed. Some common ground had indeed been found, though not enough to justify great optimism.

Turkish motives for resuming the dialogue had been the subject of great speculation in Cyprus. Some said it represented a desire by Turkey to improve its image in the international community. Some said it represented a Turkish desire to have the US Congress move to ratify the Defense Cooperation Agreement. Makarios himself declined to speculate on the Turkish motive, but said that irrespective of what had moved the Turks, the meetings themselves were a positive step. Movement had occurred in the right direction.

The President was doubtful, however, about the prospects for the March 31 meeting in Vienna. He wondered whether the Turks would be willing to make meaningful concessions before the Turkish elections. Despite such reservations, he said he and his government were prepared to go forward with good will.

He then described at some length the issues involved in movement toward a Cyprus settlement. The territorial question was the key to the solution. The principles of freedom of settlement, freedom of movement and freedom of property were also vital. With respect to the powers and functions of a future central government, Makarios insisted that these must safeguard the unity of the state as well as have regard for the bicommunal character of Cyprus.

The criteria for the territorial solution were land ownership, productivity and economic viability. The territorial settlement also had to take account of the population ratio. Official records of land ownership maintained by the British before independence and those of the Cyprus Government developed after independence showed that the Turks owned somewhere between 18 and 20 percent of the land. This was close to the percentage of Turks on the island.

President Makarios recalled that he had proposed a Turkish zone of 20%, and Denktash had countered with a proposal for 32.8%. The Turkish figure could not be justified and Makarios noted that a great gap existed between the Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot figures.

President Makarios noted that his Government had accepted the concept of a bicommunal federation. This was the first time in history a [Page 123] unitary state would be reconstructed to become a federal state. But federation could not be disguised as confederation. Nor could it be a prelude to partition. Cyprus was a small country which had been economically integrated and homogenized. It had to have a governmental structure that would ensure cohesion and economic unity. It would also have to prevent the further separation of people. No solution could deviate from basic human rights principles. These same principles had been stressed by President Carter who had proven that he was a man of action and not mere words. His recent acts in the human rights field had led to great feelings of confidence in Cyprus and it was in this spirit that the Cypriot people welcomed US initiatives to find a peaceful solution to the Cyprus problem.

Secretary Clifford thanked President Makarios for his gracious welcome and said that he would like to discuss his own feelings about President Carter in some detail. He had found the President a man of unusual intelligence, with a real capability for leadership, and this suggested that he would have a successful and productive presidency.

Clifford recalled the long relationship between the United States and Cyprus and especially between the leaders of the United States and His Beatitude, President Makarios. He praised President Makarios for his leadership and past courage, noting that despite many difficulties, he continued to provide firm and meaningful leadership for his country. This provided a basis of confidence to the Cypriot people, and hope for a Cyprus solution.

Clifford asserted that President Carter believes that 1977 is the year of decision for Cyprus. At the very start of his term as President, he had selected Clifford to head a mission to the Eastern Mediterranean. This mission aimed at ascertaining the facts, gaining the impressions of the leaders in the various countries, the difficulties and problems that existed, together with recommendations for positive solutions. The President looked forward to receiving a report from the Clifford mission with suggestions as to how the United States might utilize its good offices in efforts to solve the problems that existed in the area. Once the Clifford mission returns to Washington, it will prepare a report which the President and his senior advisers will consider, and following their discussions they will reach an agreement on future policy. This in turn will be discussed with Congress, so that if at all possible, jointly agreed policies will be adopted.

Clifford recalled that during the past eight years, the United States had a divided government in Washington. The Administration had been in the hands of one party and the Legislature had been controlled by another. This is not the way the US system was designed to operate and strains naturally developed. This situation had now been [Page 124] remedied. President Carter working with the Democratic Congress should be able to smoothly formulate and execute policy together.

Clifford then reviewed his travels during the preceding week. He recalled his breakfast meeting with Waldheim in Vienna, where he had assured the UN Secretary General that the US recognized and supported the UN’s central role in the intercommunal negotiations.4 The United States intended to cooperate and not compete with Waldheim’s efforts. The United States wanted to be helpful in every way it could. It also intended to stay in the background. Any activity which put us out in front might look like we were forcing the parties to do something that they preferred not to do.

Clifford said he had invited Waldheim to inform us when and how the United States might be of real assistance. Waldheim had expressed appreciation for this position, and had suggested that we contact him at any time we had proposals we considered of value. In sum, we conveyed to him our wish to be helpful without being overly activist.

The United States believes a Cyprus solution is vitally needed. The present situation is unsatisfactory and potentially volatile. No situation remains static, and the situation could well change in ways which would be disadvantageous to the Cypriot people. Therefore, we felt there was pressure on all the parties and the friends of Cyprus to find a solution as quickly as possible.

Clifford said that his mission had spent three days in Greece, had established a warm, personal relationship with Prime Minister Caramanlis and had conveyed the notion that we wished to be helpful in solving problems in the Eastern Mediterranean. Clifford said that he had told Caramanlis that his mission would not end with this visit, and that he expected President Carter would use the mission again once US policies in the Eastern Mediterranean had been established and some need arose to be directly helpful to the parties.

After Greece the Clifford mission had gone to Turkey. Clifford said he had never visited Ankara before. He had sought, in his three days in the Turkish capital, to develop a personal relationship with the Turkish leadership, and he believed he had succeeded. He had spent several hours alone with Prime Minister Demirel. An equally long talk had been arranged with opposition leader, Bulent Ecevit. Clifford said he had obtained a better appreciation of the problems in the area, and now realized that Greece, Turkey and Cyprus all dealt with a set of problems exacerbated by years of mistakes and misunderstandings. This did not make the problems insurmountable. Indeed, countries [Page 125] which had experienced deep distrust, such as France and Germany, had been able with good will on both sides to resolve their differences.

Clifford asserted that Cyprus represented the climax of his visit. He noted that he had already met with some of the President’s associates and that on Friday he intended to call on Rauf Denktash and get the views of the Turkish Cypriots.5 All of these conversations increased his understanding of the problems of the area, and are exceedingly helpful. Clifford said he had now reached certain conclusions of his own about the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean. He intended to pass on these personal conclusions to President Carter on his return to Washington, and therefore wished to discuss them directly with President Makarios later in their conversation today.

The Archbishop again insisted that the United States could play a decisive role in settling the Cyprus problem. Any proposal from the United States would be most welcome. Indeed, without such US help, Makarios did not think the representatives of the Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot communities could reach agreement on their own.

President Makarios noted that the next round of Vienna talks were scheduled to begin at the end of March, but he questioned how long they would last and what substantive developments would result. From his viewpoint it now looked like the Vienna talks would be purely ceremonial in character. Rather than talking about territory, the Turks will probably say they have no records and are not willing to discuss detailed adjustments. They may insist on returning to Nicosia quickly. Makarios said it was his personal view that progress was simply not possible until after the Turkish elections.6 The Turks, he said smilingly, probably want a solution, but he was not sure what kind of solution. His guess was that it would be a solution not substantially different from the present situation. They will probably offer to return only three to five percent of the territory they now hold. There could be no solution on this basis.

The first issue to be discussed in Vienna, Makarios insisted, must be territory. This subject is of primary importance to the Greek Cypriots. The territorial issue touched on the refugee question and other problems and principles. Makarios said his government was ready to make concessions, but the fact remained that the Turks were in a position of overwhelming strength. Moreover, Greek-Cypriot compromises could not be at the expense of the unity of Cyprus.

Makarios admitted that mistakes had been made by both sides over the past 15 years, yet this history must serve as a guide to a future [Page 126] settlement. Any agreement to be reached must be lasting in character. The Turks need not fear Enosis or any abuse from the Greek-Cypriot side.7

Makarios agreed that 1977 was a crucial year for Cyprus. If the current impetus is lost, no solution would be found for a long time and the present dangers would continue. A solution for Cyprus would ease other problems in the area, between Greece and Turkey and between both of these NATO allies and the United States. A solution would also be in the interest of the entire NATO Alliance. Some people on the island think any involvement by NATO or NATO members is intrinsically bad. Makarios insisted that this was not his position. He said he welcomed the assistance of the United States, and that such help was badly needed. At the same time, he hoped that the Congress would not approve a Defense Cooperation Agreement with Turkey until significant progress was made on Cyprus of a type that would ensure that a real solution is certain. Any other course would tend to convince people in Cyprus that the recent MakariosDenktash meetings were staged by the Turks in an effort solely to convince Congress to move forward with the Turkish DCA.

The United States has the ability to put pressure on Turkey and thus to facilitate concessions in connection with Cyprus. The US embargo is a practical means of doing this. The President said he realized that one could not challenge Turkey directly, but that there were other ways of exerting pressure. Indeed, such pressure was essential if there was to be meaningful progress. Once agreement on the details of a Cyprus settlement were achieved, there would be a number of other questions that would arise, such as guarantees. Each of the two communities is suspicious of the other and a system different from the present guaranty arrangement would have to be found.

President Makarios concluded his presentation by saying that he did not know whether the United States would be specific and make a direct proposal to help solve the Cyprus problem. In his view, the U.S. Government was free to proceed in this direction. He said he was also aware that the European Community was interested in being helpful.8 He stated his preference and desire for a US initiative, which had Euro[Page 127]pean backing rather than a European initiative which had America’s support.

At this point, President Makarios and Secretary Clifford withdrew for a private conversation.9

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P770044–0769. Confidential. Drafted by Ledsky on February 24; approved by Hopper on March 14. The meeting took place in the Presidential Palace. President Carter named Clark Clifford his personal emissary to Greece, Cyprus, and Turkey on February 3. See Documents 58.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 7.
  3. See footnote 5, Document 31.
  4. Clifford’s meetings are described in the attachments to Document 8.
  5. Clifford met with Denktash on February 25. The details of that meeting are reported in the fourth attachment to Document 8.
  6. Turkey held the election on June 5.
  7. Rejecting a policy of enosis was one issue upon which Makarios and the leaders in Turkey and the Turkish portion of Cyprus could all agree. Makarios’ opposition to enosis precipitated the failed coup against him launched by the Greek right-wing military Junta in July 1974, which in turn led Turkey to invade the northern portion of Cyprus. Makarios sustained his anti-enosis policy after the collapse of the Junta in Athens and the restoration of a democratic Greek government.
  8. On the role of the European initiatives to solve the Cyprus impasse, see Dodd, The Cyprus Imbroglio, pp. 61–74.
  9. No substantive record of this portion of the meeting has been found.