47. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Cyprus1

53254. Eyes only—for the Ambassador. Subject: The Secretary’s Conversations With President Kyprianou, February 26. Ref: Nicosia 532.2

1. There follows, for your information only, an account of circumstances and substance of the Secretary’s two telephone conversations with Cyprus President Kyprianou on February 26.

2. Cyprus Ambassador Dimitriou telephoned EUR Assistant Secretary Vest afternoon February 25 to say that he had been instructed by Kyprianou to pass following oral message to the Secretary: a) President Kyprianou felt “insulted and let down” in wake of President Carter’s [Page 168] message to Sadat on the Larnaca incident.3 Fact that Cyprus was small country did not mean that it had no rights and no need to preserve its sovereignty. b) Kyprianou was deeply disturbed by information received from Ankara that Counselor Nimetz and U.S. delegation in Turkey had agreed with GOT that it was imperative to lift embargo. c) In light of U.S. report on human rights in Cyprus, rumors that administration was trying to divorce Turkish embargo from Cyprus issue, and apparent efforts of U.S. to assist Turkey at Greek and Cypriot expense, there was no doubt that climate of U.S.-Cyprus relations was deteriorating.

3. Dimitriou also told Vest that Kyprianou ardently desired to improve relations with the U.S. and was struggling hard to prevent any deterioration. But he needed evidence to achieve this objective. Regrettably, on account of the administration’s stance in the Larnaca incident and on the Cyprus problem in general. Kyprianou found himself in a very difficult position and with few possibilities for improving ties as he wanted. Kyprianou was prepared to meet with President Carter to discuss matters before they worsened.

4. The Secretary telephoned Kyprianou morning of Feb 26 to assure him that he had received his message and to make following points: a) We wanted good relations with Cyprus, but the statements that were currently being made on the island did not move us in that direction; b) Kyprianou should not accept as fact incorrect rumors which had been reported about recent meetings Nimetz had had in Ankara; c) Secretary said that he was deeply troubled and offended by charges which had been made by Lyssarides against the U.S. and Clark Clifford.4 The Secretary said that these charges were totally false and that they were extremely harmful to relations between our two countries. He suggested that Kyprianou take action to deny them. Kyprianou agreed, and said he had already done so.

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5. Kyprianou said he wished to raise two concerns with the Secretary: a) The President’s letter to Sadat concerning the Larnaca incident; and b) Rumors to the effect that agreement had been reached between Nimetz and Prime Minister Ecevit that the embargo would be lifted immediately, and that there was no linkage between Cyprus and the embargo. After some discussion, Kyprianou suggested that he be authorized to state that the Secretary had assured him that President Carter’s message did not intend to fix blame on the GOC, and to make appropriate statement with respect to rumors concerning lifting of arms embargo. The Secretary said that he would consider this suggestion and would be back shortly.

6. After consulting with the President, the Secretary telephoned Kyprianou again and told him that he could say that he had discussed the Larnaca incident with the Secretary and that the latter had stated: “The message from President Carter to President Sadat was not intended to fix blame on either Egypt or Cyprus in connection with this tragic incident.” Secondly, the Secretary said that Kyprianou was authorized to state in connection with rumors relating to recent Nimetz discussions in Ankara that “those discussions were technical discussions and no agreement was entered into and no commitments were made.”

7. Kyprianou reiterated to the Secretary his desire for strengthening U.S.-Cyprus relations and suggested that a discussion of our bilateral relations would be useful in this connection. The Secretary said that we would discuss the matter of bilateral talks with the Cypriot Ambassador.

  1. Source: Department of State, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Cyrus R. Vance, Secretary of State—1977–1980, Lot 84D241, Box 10, Vance EXDIS MemCons, 1978. Confidential; Stadis; Exdis; Eyes Only. Drafted by Chapman; cleared by Ewing and Anderson; approved by Vest.
  2. Telegram 532 from Nicosia, February 27, is in National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780089–0479. The telegram expressed gratitude for the Department’s assistance in defusing tensions arising from the Larnaca Airport incident, described in footnote 3 below.
  3. On February 18, Yusuf al-Siba’i, editor of the Egyptian newspaper al-Ahram and a friend of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, was assassinated in Nicosia by Palestinian gunmen. The gunmen took hostages and planned to fly out of Larnaca International Airport on a Cyprus Airways jet. President Sadat subsequently sent commandos to the Larnaca Airport to intercept the gunmen, at which point gunfire was exchanged between the Egyptian commandos and soldiers from the Cypriot National Guard. Carter’s subsequent message to Sadat lauded the Egyptian leader for the “courageous decision” he had made. An account of this episode is in Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Egypt’s Road to Jerusalem, pp. 67–79. See also “2 Gunmen in Cyprus Kill Top Cairo Editor and Take off with 17,” The New York Times, February 19, 1978, p. 1. Carter’s letter to Sadat is scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XVIII, Middle East Regional; Arabian Peninsula.
  4. In telegram 524 from Nicosia, February 25, the Embassy reported that Vassos Lyssarides, speaking in the Cypriot House of Representatives two days earlier, had accused Clark Clifford of hastening the death of Makarios by putting undue diplomatic pressure on him. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780088–0423)