43. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • The Secretary’s Meeting with Cypriot President Kyprianou


  • Cyprus

    • President Spyros Kyprianou
    • Foreign Minister John Christophides
    • Ambassador Zenon Rossides—Permanent Representative to the United Nations
    • Ambassador Dimitriou—Ambassador to the United States
    • Mr. Georges Pelighias—Assistant to the President
  • United States

    • Secretary Vance
    • Matthew Nimetz—Counselor of the Department
    • George S. Vest—Assistant Secretary, European Bureau
    • Ambassador Leonard—Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations
    • Nelson C. Ledsky—Director, EUR/SE

SUMMARY: President Kyprianou reviewed the Cyprus situation in standard terms, placing special emphasis on the necessity for US action to bring about Turkish concessions. He affirmed his country’s readiness to proceed with intercommunal talks, but said that care must be taken to avoid a future inconclusive round. The Secretary said we were prepared to do what we could to assist the current intercommunal negotiating process. He expressed mild optimism that Turkey might be prepared to take some positive steps in the months ahead, and said that he would have a clearer picture of this prospect following his next meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Caglayangil.2 The Secretary stressed the importance of maintaining the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus and asked the Cypriots to speak to those who had not made a sufficient financial contribution to this UN effort. The Cypriots agreed to do so, and said in response to US urging that they would also be prepared to scale down their rhetoric and recourse to international fora at such time as a serious Cyprus negotiating process began. END SUMMARY

The Cyprus Situation

Kyprianou began with a gloomy assessment of the Cyprus situation. He said he could detect no change at all in Turkish attitudes in recent months and that in the absence of such change, he doubted that progress could reasonably be expected anytime soon. It was for this reason that the Cypriots had come to rely so heavily on the United States. American initiatives were most welcome. The United States was in a position to play an important and constructive role, if only because Turkey cannot for long ignore the United States. The Cypriot Government sincerely believes that if Turkey is made to feel that the situation in Cyprus has become intolerable—not because Cypriots think so—but because the United States and Western Europeans are fed up with the continuing stalemate, only then will there be a possibility of movement. Until then, said Kyprianou, there is little reason for optimism.

Secretary Vance said he did not wish to disagree, but that on the basis of his initial conversation with Foreign Minister Caglayangil and the trip which Matt Nimetz had undertaken to Ankara on his behalf several weeks ago, he was somewhat more optimistic about the possi[Page 157]bility of positive action by Turkey.3 The Secretary said he would be seeing Caglayangil again, probably on October 5, and would be in a better position to assess the situation after that meeting. The meeting between Greek Foreign Minister Bitsios and the Turkish Foreign Minister on October 1 might also provide some new insight on Turkish thinking.4 In any event, it seemed premature to suggest now that there was absolutely no chance of movement.

Responding to a question from Foreign Minister Christophides, the Secretary said that one source of optimism was the very fact that the Turks were anxious to meet with him a second time and to continue the dialogue which Matt Nimetz has begun in Ankara. The Secretary suggested that it was our current view that the new Turkish government was in a position to act on Cyprus if it wished. Although superficially the same coalition that ruled Turkey before July, the current government seemed to have come to some clearer internal agreement about policy and this too provided some basis for optimism.

Mr. Nimetz expanded on the Secretary’s comments by suggesting a new flexibility in the Turkish Government’s attitude toward Cyprus was discernible. We are not certain how much flexibility exists or in which direction the Turkish Government is prepared to act. It was these questions we have been seeking to answer through our dialogue with the Turks over the past several weeks. We have asked them how far they are willing to go to help reinvigorate the negotiating process. We have tried to assure them that we will not push them in directions they cannot go, but we want them to act in areas where action is possible. We know that Turkey has problems. It has internal economic difficulties. It has domestic security problems. There is also Cyprus and the Aegean. Nonetheless, our sense is that the current government knows it has to face up to these problems if it wishes to stay in office for the next four years.

Foreign Minister Christophides said that information had come to the Cypriot Government suggesting that Erbakan had been given greater influence over economic matters but that in return, he had surrendered some flexibility on Cyprus. This could prove to be a very hopeful development. President Kyprianou said that he had seen these same reports, but wondered whether the new Turkish coalition could really move beyond positions taken earlier this year. The Turkish Government clearly wanted the US arms embargo lifted. The Cypriot Government, in contrast, wanted it kept in place. President Kyprianou dis[Page 158]claimed any intention of interfering in US internal affairs, but insisted that removal of the embargo would destroy any chance of constructive movement on Cyprus.

Secretary Vance said it was the US view that the negotiating process should be kept going. He said we appreciated the UN Secretary-General’s view that the process not be allowed to turn into a charade. Care must be taken before a further round is convened. Our interest, said the Secretary, was not to act as or become a mediator, but only to assist the process of intercommunal talks under the Secretary-General’s aegis.

Ambassador Rossides interrupted to say that what Cyprus really wanted from the United States was some form of protection. The Cypriots wanted US assurances that they would not be exposed to further aggression from Turkey. When the Secretary noted that this had been a matter which he had discussed repeatedly with Ambassador Rossides over the years, President Kyprianou said that it was premature to talk about a system of guarantees before we know what is to be guaranteed. The outlines of a Cyprus solution were needed before one proceeded to discuss the guaranty question. President Kyprianou also agreed with the Secretary that it was important that there not be further intercommunal talks just for the sake of having talks. Before a further round is scheduled, it was important to know what kind of proposals would be forthcoming from the Turkish side. The Greek Cypriots have put forward their ideas. The Turks in contrast have said little of substance on either the territorial or constitutional questions. It is time for the Turkish side, said Kyprianou, to say what they have in mind.

President Kyprianou noted again the importance of the United States in extracting concessions from Turkey. He insisted that the United States had an important role to play because Turkey will only be forthcoming if US pressure is exerted on it. President Kyprianou repeated this theme several times as did Foreign Minister Christophides. Both also noted the serious negative consequences that would flow from a further unsuccessful negotiating round.

The Secretary and Mr. Nimetz emphasized that we would continue to make an effort to obtain movement from Turkey. They cautioned, however, that too much should not be expected from our next meeting with Foreign Minister Caglayangil. A real breakthrough was most unlikely. What we have embarked on is a process of discussion with the Turks that will probably continue over several months and not lead to any dramatic results.

The Secretary promised to keep the Cypriots informed of developments in these discussions, and expressed the hope that the Cypriot Government would be willing to enter into serious negotiations if the Turkish side agreed to do so. President Kyprianou assured the Secre[Page 159]tary that the Cypriots were ready, and were waiting only for a meaningful, positive signal from the Turks before agreeing to resume the intercommunal talks.

UN Peacekeeping Force

The Secretary said he was concerned about the state of the UN peacekeeping force on Cyprus.5 The Finnish Government intended to take its troops out. The Canadians are also thinking of withdrawing. Other nations with contingents on the Island seemed also to be restless. The major question was funding. Ambassador Leonard noted in this connection that some of the countries with forces on Cyprus were three years in arrears in receiving payments from the UN. Mr. Ledsky suggested that the key question was getting adequate contributions from UN members who were not now contributing a fair share. It would accordingly be most helpful if the Cypriot Government would speak to some of these countries. The Secretary underscored the importance of this suggestion by noting the possibility of future peacekeeping forces in Rhodesia and Namibia.

Foreign Minister Christophides said he knew about the Finnish situation, but had heard nothing about the possibility of a Canadian withdrawal. He realized as well the importance of the funding question and said his Government would be prepared to speak to France and certain other countries who were not making a fair contribution. He wondered if the US could supply a list of those countries we deemed most stingy, and which we felt the Cypriot Government could best approach. Ambassador Leonard agreed to do so.

The Cyprus Economy

The Secretary enquired as to the current status of the Cypriot economy. President Kyprianou responded that things were not going badly. There was internal confidence, and a measure of prosperity had been re-established. At the same time, the President insisted that Cyprus still had problems. The economy was not anywhere near pre-1974 levels. There were still major refugee needs to be met. Almost one-third of the entire Cypriot population were turned into refugees in 1974, and this situation could not be quickly corrected. Foreign Minister Christophides interjected at this point a statement of appreciation for the US contribution to refugee relief and reconstruction projects. He said American aid was greatly appreciated, but was still very much needed.

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Consideration of Cyprus Issue in International Fora

Mr. Nimetz noted that the Turkish side was extremely sensitive to campaigns directed against it by the Cypriots in international conferences and in the UN. The United States recognized that so long as the negotiating process was stalled, it was natural that the Cypriots would take their case to world public opinion. The time may come, however, if we are successful in getting a serious negotiating process restarted that this campaign should be halted, and we wondered whether the Cypriot Government would be prepared to cooperate.

President Kyprianou said that one of the obligations of his Government was to keep the Cyprus issue alive. It was the least he could do in the absence of progress. The Cypriots have the right—indeed the duty—to bring the matter to the attention of the UN. The Cyprus problem was a serious international issue, in which there had been no real movement in recent years. President Kyprianou said his government would have to bring the question up in the General Assembly next month, but that if something of substance developed in the negotiating process the Cypriot Government would be willing to scale down public discussion in international fora. Foreign Minister Christophides agreed, saying that such a curtailment would be in the interest of the Cypriot Government once a serious negotiation with the Turkish side began.

The meeting closed with a brief discussion of what President Kyprianou would say to the press. The Secretary and President Kyprianou agreed that the Cypriots would indicate that the meeting, in which a review of the situation in Cyprus had occurred, had been exceedingly useful and constructive.

  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 Ledsky; cleared by Vest and Daniel Spiegel (S); approved by Anderson on October 15. The meeting took place in Vance’s suite in the UN Plaza Hotel. Vance was in New York to attend the session of the UN General Assembly.
  2. The meeting took place on October 5 in Vance’s suite in the UN Plaza Hotel. See Document 100. Vance and Çağlayangil also met on September 27; see Document 99.
  3. Nimetz was in Ankara for consultations on September 14. See Document 98.
  4. According to reports in the Turkish press, this meeting lasted for 2½ hours, during which the Foreign Ministers of Greece and Turkey discussed Cyprus and the territorial dispute over the Aegean Sea.
  5. The UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) was established in March 1964 pursuant to Security Resolution 186. After the cease-fire on August 16, 1974, in Cyprus, the UNFICYP maintained the cease-fire and the buffer zone between the northern portion of Cyprus occupied by Turkish troops and the rest of the island.