41. Memorandum of Conversation1

PARTICIPANTS

  • Clark Clifford
  • Cypriot Minister of Foreign Affairs Ioannis Christofidis

A reception was given on the evening of the burial of Archbishop Makarios.2 After greeting the Foreign Minister at the reception, he suggested that we slip into another room and have a brief conversation. We were able to arrange this without any interruption.

He first expressed his personal appreciation for the caliber of the Delegation sent to the Archbishop’s funeral by President Carter. He indicated that it was impressive and was gratifying to the Cypriot government and its people. He asked that I express his appreciation and that of his government to President Carter.

[Page 148]

He had heard that I was having a press conference at the American Embassy on Tuesday, August 9, and he asked if he might make a suggestion or two with reference to the press conference.3 I told him I welcomed any thoughts that he had.

He emphasized that there was widespread disappointment among the Greek Cypriots over the lack of progress since the U.S. Delegation visited Cyprus, Greece and Turkey in February of this year. He believed that there was considerable euphoria at the time over the progress made with the problem and the suggestion that it might be settled in the year 1977 was accepted enthusiastically. Since then, however, it was felt there had been no appreciable attainments. He felt strongly that the Turkish Cypriots had not complied with the Turkish agreement made with me regarding the tabling in Vienna of a plan for the structure of the new government. He suggested that it was the opinion of the top officials in Nicosia that the submission by the Turkish Cypriots in Vienna had been so unreasonable that it could not, under any stretch of the imagination, be considered as compliance with the understandings. In fact it caused considerable alarm because the effect of such a memorandum was to create two separate countries instead of unifying Cyprus as an independent, sovereign state. For these reasons he thought it best to down-play any feeling that we had regarding progress even though he conceded that the bringing of the parties together and the tabling of memoranda had not been accomplished before.

He was quite voluble in suggesting that the present difficulty over Famagusta was the most dangerous development that had occurred for some time. It clearly demonstrated to him that instead of the Turkish Cypriots attempting to find areas of agreement, they were creating new and alarming issues of confrontation.

The previous hope that the Turkish Cypriots under pressure from Ankara might be reasonable in negotiating has been completely destroyed by their intransigence regarding Famagusta.

This action has led a number of Greek Cypriots to feel that it is probably impossible to deal with Denktash and his Turkish Cypriots because they constantly react to any bargaining effort with a counter-proposal that destroys any possibility of compromise. Famagusta is considered to be a symbol and if the Turkish Cypriots proceed to acti[Page 149]vate it and proceed on the assumption that it is theirs, then emotions will run very strong in Nicosia.

He expressed the hope that the U.S. would recognize the impact of this incident upon future negotiations and would take steps to convince Ankara not to go on with the Famagusta exploitation. I in no way suggested that there was any specific action that could be taken in this regard but that it would be a matter to discuss and consider by the members of our team. He expressed some concern over the impact that the Archbishop’s death would have upon the course of the negotiations. I replied that the Archbishop’s wisdom, judgment and moderation would be greatly missed, but that after a short interval there was no reason why the work could not go forward. I told him I thought it was important that the intercommunal talks should proceed even if no accomplishments result; that it was valuable to have the parties in contact so that at least the illusion of negotiating was created. I said that we had received some setbacks these last few months but that it was entirely possible that the next series of developments would be beneficial. I told him we were not discouraged and that these temporary difficulties merely emphasized our determination to stay with the problem until it was solved. He found this encouraging and took it as an occasion of expressing his appreciation to our government and to this effort that was being made.

He brought up the subject of the difficult weeks that lay ahead for the Greek Cypriots. No one else had the standing and appeal to the populace that the Archbishop had. Careful consideration was being given to the means by which the strongest and most effective new government of Cyprus could be created. I assured him that our relationship with the Republic of Cyprus was such, and our confidence in its leaders was firm, that we would continue to support it in its place in the family of nations. I assumed that there would be a proper succession in accordance with constitutional processes and that this would in no way diminish our receptivity for a relationship with the Republic of Cyprus.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Office of Southern Europe, Records of Counselor Nimetz, 1977–1980, Lot 83D256, Box 1, POL 2 Cyprus 1977 and 1978. Confidential. Drafted by Clifford on August 10.
  2. Makarios died of a heart attack on July 3.
  3. Clifford held the press conference at the American Center in Nicosia on August 9. Before taking questions Clifford praised Makarios’ efforts to work toward peace and affirmed the continuing determination of the United States to find a settlement acceptable to all sides in the Eastern Mediterranean. The Embassy transmitted the text of the press conference in telegram 2086 from Nicosia, August 10. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770287–1262)