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

132423. Subject: Nimetz Meeting With Denktash in New York, May 19.

1. Department Counselor Nimetz met with Turkish Cypriot leader Denktash for forty-five minutes in New York May 19. Nimetz reviewed with Denktash both the current possibilities for a resumption of Cyprus negotiations and the status of such issues as the reopening of Nicosia Airport and formation of a missing persons committee. Denktash indicated that his purpose in coming to New York had been to take advantage of the presence of so many world leaders for the SSOD to press the Turkish Cypriot cause and specifically to improve international perceptions of the April 13 proposals.2 He said that he planned to travel to Washington to meet with members of Congress and that he might well remain in the U.S. through the UNFICYP mandate renewal debate in mid-June. (FYI: Denktash will meet with Secretary in New York May [Page 182] 24;3 he is expected to come to Washington for closed session with HIRC May 25. Kyprianou also expected come to Washington for Congressional contacts either June 7 or 8.)4

2. Addressing the current negotiating prospects, Nimetz said that we were seriously concerned that the forthcoming congressional vote on the Turkish arms embargo—irrespective of which way it went—could well bring about deterioration in the Cyprus situation and perhaps lead to a deadlock of several years’ duration. In the one case the Turkish side would probably become intransigent, to judge from Ecevit’s recent remarks; in the other, the Greek Cypriots. Hence if there was to be any progress in the near future towards a settlement, it was essential that a decisive move towards reconvening negotiations be made very shortly in advance of the congressional vote. Nimetz said that for our part we were actively seeking ways to make it possible for Waldheim to call for a fresh round of talks. We had made it clear to the Greek Cypriots that now was the time to come to the table and that by maintaining a negative front they would be passing up a possible opportunity to achieve real progress. At the same time, however, both we and the Secretary General needed solid help from the Turkish side; we had to have some new ideas or some concrete indications of flexibility that Waldheim could use to justify reconvening negotiations and to persuade the Greek Cypriots to come to the table. Nimetz said we were convinced that there was in fact more to the Turkish Cypriot proposals than had been articulated. These had not been presented as clearly as they could have been, and the Greek Cypriots had skillfully exploited the situation.

3. Denktash responded by stressing that the Turkish Cypriot side was fully prepared to negotiate in earnest and to show maximum flexibility once the talks were reconvened. He was ready and willing to meet Kyprianou at any time and at any place, and was convinced that movement would be possible if only Kyprianou would agree to sit down and talk. Only dialogue, he stressed, could generate trust and an understanding for the differences that separated the two sides. At the same time, Denktash voiced his belief that the Greek Cypriots would continue to refuse to negotiate and instead to focus on the “long struggle” for as long as the congressional debate on the arms embargo continued. He cited the Cypriot High Commissioner in London as telling him that the GOC wanted the Turks to take as hard a line as possible, since this would increase international and congressional sympathy for the Greek Cypriot cause. Denktash also expressed doubts as to whether Kyprianou had the domestic political strength to conclude a [Page 183] settlement. He was in fact a servant of the National Council, on which sat powerful political figures who wanted a settlement only if it would bring them all of Cyprus. Even Makarios could not always carry the National Council with him, so how could Kyprianou be expected to? Denktash also maintained that Kyprianou, Clerides and Lyssarides had from the start been opposed to the four principles that he and Makarios had worked out in February 1977,5 and that since Makarios’ death there had been a steady erosion of these principles, as witness Kyprianou’s increasing stress on majority rule. Denktash concluded that only through strong pressure from the U.S. could the Greek Cypriots be induced to work for a realistic settlement.

4. Nimetz asked Denktash how he saw the U.S. exerting this pressure. By lifting the embargo we would be sending a strong signal to the Greek Cypriots, but what else could we do? Denktash said that it was vital that the Turkish side have better publicity. The Greek Cypriots were now able virtually to monopolize international coverage and could, for example, successfully sustain the charge that the Turkish Cypriots were the intransigent party on the missing persons question when in fact quite the reverse was true. Nimetz remarked that this situation now appeared to be changing, pointing out that there was a lot of editorial support in the U.S. for lifting the embargo and for a resumption of negotiations on the basis of the April 13 proposals.

5. Denktash sought to make it clear that failure to lift the embargo would represent the point of no return for Turkey. Should this be the case, we would be forced to take “certain steps” in the Security Council in mid-June. On the other hand, if the embargo were lifted the Turkish side would be “jelly-like” in its flexibility.

6. Regarding the substance of the issues, Nimetz said that it was our view that the constitutional question was inherently the more difficult since the broad philosophical differences that existed on the structure and functions of the future central government did not lend themselves to compromise. Territory was at once more practical and negotiable an issue; one could easily envisage the two sides arguing over a map section by section and gradually coming together. In this connection, Nimetz remarked that territorial percentages were generally unhelpful and that the April 13 proposals, in avoiding mention of them, had embodied an inherently flexible approach. Unfortunately, however, percentages had become something of a shibboleth both for the Greek Cypriots and for the international community. Denktash was largely unreceptive to Nimetz’ suggestion that the Turkish Cypriots seek to tempt the GOC on the constitutional issue by offering them [Page 184] more territory, but he echoed the Counselor’s fear that an intercommunal negotiating session involving Onan and Papadopoulos might break up quickly without any results. For this very reason, he noted, the initial, basic discussions would have to be carried on between himself and Kyprianou. If Kyprianou were able to satisfy him that the Greek Cypriots did not desire to Hellenize all of Cyprus, then the Turkish side would be prepared to leave the door open for future integration by evolution.

7. When Nimetz broached the subject of Varosha, Denktash asked rhetorically whether it was not consistent with a federal system of government for a certain number of Greek Cypriots to live under Turkish Cypriot administration and vice-versa. Nimetz said that we believe differently, namely that Varosha should ultimately revert to Greek Cypriot control. This course would in fact be in the Turkish Cypriots’ own interests, since administering some 30,000 Greek Cypriots would be no easy task. Nimetz noted that the Turkish Cypriot position on Varosha, as it was now emerging, was a forthcoming one, and he stressed that the return of large numbers of Greek Cypriots to Varosha under acceptable conditions would have a greater impact than anything else on opinion in the U.S. and in Greek Cyprus. We did not believe that Kyprianou would be able to resist a serious offer on Varosha, but would find himself obliged to return to the table if only on account of the domestic pressure that would develop.

8. Nimetz said that he could not understand why the two Cypriot communities did not encourage greater non-political communication across the green line as a means of breaking down barriers. Bar associations and doctors groups could meet, and there could be joint sports contests. If the limited federalism that the Turkish Cypriots propounded was to work, it would need to be abetted and developed through functional non-political contacts such as these. Denktash replied that the Turkish side believed firmly in dialogue and was prepared to react favorably to any suggestions for common working groups and the like as long as they were not politically motivated. It was the Greek Cypriots who had intervened and prevented trade union leaders from the two sides from meeting—not the Turkish Cypriots. Unfortunately instances such as the recent GOC attack on Council of Europe rep Karasek confirmed that the Greek Cypriots were not interested in compromise but only in imposing their will across the board.

9. Nimetz asked Denktash where the Turkish Cypriot side now stood on the projected missing persons committee and on the reopening of Nicosia Airport. Denktash said that he was fully in favor of establishing a missing persons committee on the understanding that it [Page 185] would operate under ICRC rules of procedure.6 When an ICRC representative had visited Cyprus recently, Denktash had asked her whether the ICRC normally held votes when conducting inquiries such as this; she had replied no. With regard to Nicosia Airport, Denktash said that he would agree to reopening it to all civilian traffic (not simply U.N.) under the control of a U.N. administrator who would be assisted by an adviser from each community. He would not insist on an equal number of Turkish and Greek Cypriot personnel in the airport’s technical staff; these and other functional questions could be decided upon by the administrator in conjunction with the two advisers. His only pre-condition would be that both zones have equal access to the airport. (This part of the conversation was later relayed to U.N. Under Secretary-General Urquhart, who said that it seemed to represent an advance over Denktash’s earlier position and that Waldheim would probably want to follow up when he met with Denktash on May 22.)

10. Nimetz took note of Denktash’s readiness to move ahead with a missing persons committee, adding that it was our feeling that the two sides had essentially reached agreement on the substance of this issue late last year. He said that Kyprianou had asked to see Ambassador Mezvinsky in New York to discuss this very subject, and that we would be happy to relay to him Denktash’s interest in moving ahead and to sound out Greek Cypriot intentions on this score. Denktash agreed, and said that he would also like to meet with Mezvinsky.

11. Nimetz encouraged Denktash to press ahead on concrete issues such as the airport reopening and the missing persons committee, and to give adequate publicity to these efforts. Results in these areas would be important not only politically, in that Turkey’s friends in the Congress would have ammunition to use with their colleagues, but also substantively in that the negotiating process would acquire a certain momentum. It was our impression that the Greek Cypriots would begin losing sympathy if they continued to maintain a negative attitude on all issues; it would then be very helpful to the Turkish side if they could portray themselves as positive and forthcoming.

  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; Exdis. Drafted by Chapman; cleared by Ewing and Stanislaus R.P. Valerga (S/S–O); approved by Nimetz. Sent for information to Ankara, Athens, London, and USUN. Nimetz was in New York to attend the UN Special Session on Disarmament.
  2. The proposals, presented by Turkish Cypriot representatives to Waldheim, are detailed in a press release titled “Concrete, Substantial and Voluminous” and are reprinted as Appendix 51 in Ertekün, The Cyprus Dispute and the Birth of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, pp. 345–354. The key point of the proposals called for a system of government consisting of two federated states for the purpose of strengthening the political autonomy and geographic separation of the Turkish Cypriot community.
  3. See Document 53.
  4. See Document 55.
  5. See footnote 5, Document 31.
  6. General Assembly Resolution 32/128, adopted on December 16, 1977, requested the Secretary General to establish a committee jointly with the International Committee of the Red Cross to investigate missing persons in Cyprus.