40. Action Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Vest) to Secretary of State Vance1

Future Cyprus Strategy


How active should we be later this summer or fall in searching for a Cyprus settlement or resolving other problems in the eastern Mediterranean? We need your guidance to enable us to begin planning now for any further U.S. initiatives.


We have essentially been marking time on Cyprus since the Vienna round of intercommunal talks and the start of the Turkish electoral campaign some three months ago. This inactivity will have to continue at least until a new Turkish government is firmly in place, a process that seems to be nearing completion. The odds now are that former Prime Minister Demirel will succeed in reconstructing the three-party coalition which governed Turkey for the last two years. We should know by the July 16–17 weekend if Demirel will be successful. Should Demirel fail, Ecevit may be given a second chance or the process of working toward some kind of grand coalition could begin and take a further month to resolve.

A Demirel-Erbakan-Turkes coalition would not easily make concessions on Cyprus. But Demirel badly wants an improved security relationship with the U.S. and recognizes that Cyprus is increasingly a drag on Turkey’s international position. In addition, Ecevit has [Page 143] adopted a moderate, constructive tone on Cyprus and might allow Demirel to make the necessary concessions toward resolving that issue, while vigorously expressing opposition on other matters. Thus, we tend to think that regardless of the outcome of the government formation process in Ankara, there is a chance for movement on Cyprus, something we ought to be ready to exploit if it is found to exist.

As we see the situation, the period from late August to late September might be the time for a further move on Cyprus, assuming formation of a Turkish government before August 1. Such a U.S. initiative would revive the negotiating momentum achieved immediately after the Clifford Mission last February and could set the stage for further substantive efforts by the UN, U.S. and others on Cyprus later this fall and winter. It might also help prevent a major debate on Cyprus at the UN General Assembly which convenes on September 20, as well as dampening the fuss about Cyprus at the Belgrade CSCE Conference.2

We recognize, of course, that an early U.S. effort to move on Cyprus may be impossible. This could happen if the Turkish political situation remains unclarified or if one or more of the parties refuse to deal with us. But in an attempt to explore possibilities for early action, we have quietly but actively sought the counsel of the parties to the dispute, our Western allies, UN officialdom, and the Congress as to what we might do next. We have also in this interim period attempted to resolve the most immediate problems connected with our troubled defense relationships with both Greece and Turkey. These recent activities may be summarized as follows:

(a) Consultation with the UN. We have talked to high-level UN officials in New York, and the Secretary General’s Special Representative for Cyprus, who have agreed to probe to see whether one or more technical discussions should be scheduled in July in an effort simply to keep the current negotiating process alive. UN officials are convinced that no meaningful progress is possible without a further U.S. initiative. They would like to see a second Clifford mission to the area in August or September.

(b) Contacts with the Greek-Cypriots. Clark Clifford had a long and friendly telephone conversation with Archbishop Makarios in June, and Kyprianou had a good round of meetings in Washington two weeks ago.3 In these contacts we sought to convince the Cypriot leadership not to lose faith in the current negotiating process but to bide time until a government emerges in Ankara. The Cypriots clearly want and [Page 144] expect a further U.S. initiative this fall, and have begun to raise the possibility, if one does not emerge, of asking the UN General Assembly in October to organize an international conference where the Cyprus issue can be considered by, among others, the Soviets.

(c) Contact with the Turkish-Cypriots. Department officers have talked in New York to Turkish-Cypriot “Foreign Minister” Chelik and have suggested some procedural steps that the Turkish-Cypriots might take prior to a resumption of intercommunal talks to improve their constitutional proposals.4 We also suggested to Chelik that U.S. constitutional experts might work directly with Turkish-Cypriot lawyers on this project. Chelik said he would discuss this idea with Denktash, but we have had no response as yet.

(d) Turkish military situation. An interim commercial arrangement has been worked out on the F–4s that will take us to late October, and we have sent an authorization to the White House covering the final $55 million in FMS credits the Turks can receive in FY–1977. However, the Turkish military establishment continues to face supply problems caused primarily by the embargo.

(e) Turkish economic situation. Turkey faces an urgent, short-term foreign exchange shortage brought on by a high growth rate, sluggish exports, high oil prices, the effects of recession in Western Europe, and inflationary domestic policies. Until a new government is confirmed, policies to meet these difficulties cannot be formulated nor can the Turks approach the IMF or other potential donors until they are prepared to take economic measures themselves. We have done nothing to encourage the Turks to think that they can get assistance from us to meet their economic problems. An effort to settle the Cyprus problem would make it easier to strengthen all aspects of U.S.-Turkish relations and we think the Turks realize this.

(f) Greek-U.S. Defense Cooperation Agreement. We have quietly resumed base negotiations in Athens. Progress has been made, and we have an informal pledge from Caramanlis that a final, open negotiating round can be held in late July or August.

(g) Congressional situation. Our continuing close contact with the Greek interest group and other members of Congress suggests that we have restored some good will and understanding, along with an expectation of early and vigorous Administration action to help move the Cyprus issue toward a solution.

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Our Next Steps

(a) Talking to the Turks. How much we can do with respect to Cyprus and when we can do it depends on the degree of Turkish cooperation we are able to elicit. Ankara holds the key to progress on Cyprus and we know that the Turks are suspicious of outside involvement, and are tough bargainers who do not make concessions easily. We also know that Turkish patience in dealing with the U.S. is wearing thin.

Our next approach to Turkey must, therefore, be carefully conceived and executed. In our judgment this can best be done by channeling our initial contact with the new Turkish government through our Ambassador in Ankara. We think Ambassador Spiers should be authorized to probe Turkish positions on Cyprus and the U.S.-Turkish security relationship, and to ascertain through a series of conversations whether, how and when further Western initiatives might be undertaken. Our further decisions would thus be taken on the basis of our Ambassador’s assessment, presumably sometime in mid-August.5

(b) Preparing for an initiative. If the Turks are at all responsive to the idea of new outside activity on Cyprus, the question remains as to the content of such an initiative. Until now, as you are aware, we have sought to limit ourselves to procedural aspects of the Cyprus problem. But given the inability of the UN to do more than preside over the negotiating process and the unwillingness of all the parties immediately involved to make innovative proposals, some form of outside substantive involvement would appear to be essential if any early progress is to be made.

There are two major areas where such an effort might be centered: (1) helping the two sides devise elements of a government structure which would contain both a central authority and local autonomy for the Turkish zone and (2) development for presentation to the parties of compromise territorial ideas. (The Greek-Cypriot map tabled in April allotted 20 percent to the Turkish zone; Denktash now controls 36 percent of Cyprus, but has spoken of accepting 32.8 percent. An outside proposal in the 25–30 percent range might greatly speed the negotiating process.)

The Greek Cypriots have already responded positively to the concept of this kind of U.S. substantive involvement; the Turks will be somewhat more reluctant, but even they would regard U.S. involvement as preferable to that of any other party. Unless you have objection, we would favor beginning to develop proposals in these two areas [Page 146] which, depending on the circumstances, could be considered for presentation to the parties at the appropriate moment.6

(c) Involving Others. Over the past two years we have worked closely with the British and less so with the other EC–9 members on Cyprus and other eastern Mediterranean issues. To be frank, nothing much of value has resulted from these consultations. We know, too, that the Greeks, Cypriots and most of all the Turks, are suspicious of too much outside involvement, which they view as a form of pressure on them for concessions. Two weeks ago, the British sent a ten-man delegation to Washington to discuss the future of their Sovereign Base Areas in Cyprus and to discuss informally what we might consider doing together with respect to Cyprus. We agreed only to study some ideas, and to stay in touch with one another.

For the immediate future, we are inclined to think that the U.S. should work alone as much as possible, keeping the UN and British, and to a lesser degree our other European friends, advised of what we are planning and doing. At a later time, when the contours of a Cyprus settlement become clearer, it might be useful to bring appropriate western influence to bear on the parties. German involvement might be particularly helpful at later stages in the process.7

(d) Organizing a future initiative. The desires of the parties, the results of the initial talks with the new Turkish government, and the wishes of the UN and our European allies all must be taken into account in deciding whether, and if so how and when, a further U.S. initiative might best be organized this year. These considerations also bear on how Clark Clifford could best be enlisted to help further with the Cyprus problem.

Clifford, as you know, has continued his active interest in Cyprus and other eastern Mediterranean problems. Since May, in talking to Greek, Turkish and Cypriot leaders, he has conveyed his determination to stay engaged and travel again to the area if the parties—all the parties—believe further direct U.S. involvement would be helpful. Clifford, who on occasion has said he would be prepared to stay in the area for a prolonged period, understands that a second mission can be undertaken only when conditions are right (i.e. the Turkish political situation is clarified), and only after further substantive preparatory work has been accomplished.

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We believe that under proper circumstances a second trip by Clark Clifford to the area could be a decisive factor in achieving further progress. Clifford can also be a critical asset in explaining our policies on the Hill. For both reasons, we would like to continue to work closely with him, and begin to develop substantive positions and strategies in close consultation with him. Depending on developments, for example, it might be useful for Clifford to meet the new Turkish Foreign Minister and/or other key figures in New York or Europe, or possibly Nimetz could make a preparatory swing through the area to set the stage for a second Clifford trip. We recommend that we begin to consider plans along these lines.8

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Records of Counselor Nimetz, 1977–1980, Lot 81D85, Box 2, Eastern Mediterranean—1977. Confidential. Sent through Nimetz. Drafted by Ewing and Ledsky on July 12, and cleared by Barbour, who initialed the memorandum for Vest. The memorandum bears Vance’s stamped initials on the lower right corner. In a covering memorandum forwarding this memorandum to Vance, Nimetz reported: “Once a Turkish government is firmly in place, we may be faced with choices requiring prompt decisions and action.” Nimetz also noted that Clifford remained “very active” regarding the Cyprus negotiations. (Ibid.)
  2. The Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe began in Helsinki in 1975. The follow-up meeting, held in Belgrade from October 1977 to March 1978, focused particularly on human rights issues.
  3. See Documents 38 and 39.
  4. Vedat Celik met with Deputy Chief of Mission C. Edward Dillery in Nicosia on May 3 and on July 6. Although Celik also met with Nimetz in the United States on June 13, no record has been found to confirm if this was the meeting in New York.
  5. Vance approved this step and wrote in the margin: “After new govt is in place.” Cahill confirmed Vance’s approval on June 14 by initialing on his behalf.
  6. Vance approved this step and wrote in the margin: “But we should not do anything without first clearing w. Kurt Waldheim.” Cahill confirmed Vance’s approval on June 14 by initialing on his behalf.
  7. Vance approved this step. Cahill confirmed Vance’s approval on June 14 by initialing on his behalf.
  8. Vance approved this step and wrote in the margin: “Show them to me first.” Cahill confirmed Vance’s approval on June 14 by initialing on his behalf. Although Clifford remained active in working toward a settlement in the Eastern Mediterranean, he did not return to the region in that capacity.