45. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Spyros Kyprianou, President of Cyprus
  • Ioannis Khristofidis, Foreign Minister
  • Zenon Rossides, Ambassador to the UN
  • Nicos Dimitriou, Ambassador to the US
  • George Pelaghias, Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • President Carter
  • Zbigniew Brzezinski, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • George Vest, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European Affairs
  • Thomas Thornton, NSC Staff (Notetaker)

The meeting opened with the President’s expression of his and the American people’s deep concern with the Cyprus issue.

President Kyprianou stressed the fact that Cyprus relies on the US and supports the charter principles.2 The issue is not an internal Cypriot matter, but a question of Turkish involvement. The Greek Cypriots must contend on an unequal basis since the Turkish Cypriots are backed up by the Turks. (Kyprianou then provided a short description of the situation in Cyprus.) There must be, he concluded, a viable, lasting solution.

In response to the President’s question, Kyprianou said that the Greek Cypriots would accept a federation (not a confederation), assuming that the territorial issues were settled. He stressed that any non-unitary state would be an unnatural solution, since Cyprus is a unit. The Greek Cypriots will concede 20% of the territory to the Turkish Cypriots, however, if refugees can return to that area and if there is a unitary state.

The President asked if Kyprianou preferred the UN as an intermediary. Kyprianou said that was the case, but the Secretary General lacks the power to push for a solution. That must be the US role.

The President warned against overestimating our power, but promised to do what we could. When he saw Karamanlis and Demirel last May in London, there seemed little prospect for progress; now may [Page 163] be a better time to try.3 The Turks have a problem with the American Congress. They want a Defense Cooperation Agreement and we have explained to the Turks that they must make some progress on Cyprus, even though they reject the idea of linkage. The whole matter is very complicated and the Turks demand more than 20% of a federal state. There are also differences on the exact form of government. Both Cypriot sides should sit down together under UN auspices and stay there until they reach an agreement. Clark Clifford is ready to return whenever there is hope for at least partial success. We are eager to participate in the settlement process. We will cooperate with the Secretary-General and do not seek a preeminent role.

Kyprianou emphasized that, contrary perhaps to previous times, the Cypriots unequivocally support a US initiative. They seek a just solution in terms of UN Resolutions and human rights. A just settlement is in everybody’s interest; partition will be a source of continuing friction.

The President asked if the Cypriots envision federation something along the US model. What would be the proportion of Greek/Turkish representation?

Kyprianou said the US model was relevant and that the representation could be either in terms of ratios of population or have added features assuring Turks of additional representation on matters of special interest. Representation is not a stumbling block as long as it is not an issue of confederation. The status quo, partition, must not be legalized.

The President replied that he and the American people agreed completely. The next step was to see what the Turks tell Secretary Vance in their bilateral meeting today; then see if a new Clifford trip is needed.4 Then we could consult with the Secretary General and get things moving. Flexibility is needed on both sides. We will, within the bounds of rationality, encourage the Turks to be forthcoming on Cyprus. Karamanlis and Demirel say that Cyprus is relatively less important; they are more afraid of a war breaking out over the Aegean problem. We will keep focusing their attention on Cyprus.

Kyprianou pointed out that the Greeks had made proposals at the last round of talks but the Turks failed to respond. The mere idea of federation is a big concession. The Turks must now follow suit.

The President asked what the Cypriot preference concerning the Sovereign Base Areas was; could that area be added to the Greek terri[Page 164]tory?5 The Cypriots responded that the area involved was very small and the matter never came up.

Kyprianou stressed that Cyprus is a test case for the UN. Solution would be easy if President Carter’s principles were applied.

President Carter pointed out that interpretations of principles can vary. Ultimately the parties must reach an agreement. We must keep the Turks, members of NATO, convinced of our fairness and good intentions. We seek only justice and will not be timid in acting. Vance and Clifford are an ideal pair to be involved.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 35, Memcons: President: 10/1–5/77. Secret; Sensitive. Drafted by Thornton. The meeting took place in Carter’s suite at the UN Plaza Hotel.
  2. Reference is presumably to the Charter of the United Nations. Since the Turkish invasion of the northern portion of Cyprus in 1974, debate in international bodies such as the UN considered the question of whether or not this act constituted a violation of the principles of the UN Charter.
  3. See Documents 94 and 166.
  4. See Document 100.
  5. Reference is to two military bases in Cyprus retained by the British after Cyprus gained its independence.