53. Telegram From Secretary of State Vance to the Department of State1

Secto 6005. Subject: Secretary’s Meeting With Turkish Cypriot Leader Denktash, May 24.

1. Summary: The Secretary met for twenty minutes May 24 with Turkish Cypriot leader Denktash. Denktash was accompanied by Turkish Cypriot New York representative Atalay. Counselor Nimetz, IO Assistant Secretary Maynes, and EUR/SE Director Ewing were also present. Denktash was affable and seemed anxious demonstrate his flexibility and openness to ideas. End summary.

2. The Secretary said he had found Denktash’s May 22 statement very constructive.2 The administration intends to push hard for lifting of the Turkish arms embargo. We regretted the vote in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee but this did not necessarily reflect the view of the Senate as a whole which might well be more receptive than the House. We would bend every effort to persuade the full Senate. In this regard, statements such as Denktash had made May 22 were helpful. The Secretary said he had conveyed a message to Turkish Prime Minister Ecevit indicating that while the task will be difficult and hard, it was possible to get the embargo lifted.

3. In response to the Secretary’s question concerning conditions in Cyprus, Denktash said the Turkish area was functioning normally and had reached the point where it could even afford such luxuries as government crises, resignations by the Prime Minister, inflation, etc. The Turkish community had full security in its area; its members were relaxed and could smile. Those who were refugees from the south had no desire to return. The Turkish Cypriots recognized that certain numbers of Greeks would return to their homes in the context of a settlement but there was no similar sentiment on the Turkish side.

4. Denktash stressed that he was in the U.S. not only to help make progress toward a Cyprus settlement but to help Turkey which had suffered much internationally as a result of Cyprus.

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5. Denktash recalled that Ecevit had asked him earlier this year what margin of territory could be given up. His reply had been it all depended on whether real peace could be achieved. Denktash said he was concerned that the other side did not seriously want a settlement but only wanted to bargain for bargaining’s sake. They were pocketing all Turkish offers but still would not come to the negotiating table. He saw no indication that the Greek-Cypriots wanted to negotiate. Denktash said he would like very much to meet with Kyprianou while both are in New York but he had received no response to his suggestions of such a meeting.

6. The Secretary noted that in Denktash’s May 22 statement reference had been made to 30,000–35,000 Greek Cypriots who could return to New Famagusta during the negotiating period. Denktash recalled that about 40,000 Greeks had lived in Varosha prior to 1974. Of that total approximately 5,000 had lived in an area which the Turkish Cypriots felt threatened the harbor area and the Turkish town. Thus, the Turks felt that this area should be retained and those affected compensated. However, even this could be discussed in the course of negotiations.

7. The Secretary asked whether some form of UN administration of Varosha would be possible while negotiations were proceeding. Denktash said he was open to all ideas. A Turkish proposal had been made but he was willing to consider various formulae. The Turkish community was prepared to take political risks provided that a permanent settlement was achieved. The Secretary said he understood the importance of a final and lasting settlement.

8. Nimetz asked whether it would be possible for Secretary General Waldheim to appoint a representative to work on Varosha, or perhaps a sub-group could be set up to work on the matter. Denktash said he had not thought in a concrete way about modalities. In any event, the UN would be involved. The first Turkish offer had suggested Turkish-Greek administration but even under that concept the UN would handle the police function. Denktash said that specific areas should be delineated to which people could return on a graduated basis as negotiations continue. Denktash felt that a technical survey of water, sewage, and other municipal services could also be undertaken once negotiations began, perhaps under auspices of a joint UN-Greek-Turkish team. In this regard, it might be necessary to come to the U.S. for financial assistance.

9. The Secretary said that Varosha is one of the most important issues, both in factual and symbolic terms.

10. Denktash was concerned that the Greeks would prefer now to talk only about the constitutional issue. The Turkish position was that there should be two communities in one Cyprus with each community [Page 188] secure and autonomous in its area. In contrast, Denktash said the Greek concept was to restore one Greek Cyprus in which Turks would be accommodated.

11. In response to the Secretary’s question on the status of the missing persons issue, Denktash said he had fully agreed May 23 to a U.S. draft paper in a meeting with Ambassador Mezvinsky.3 Denktash said the ball was now with the Greek Cypriots. His only pre-condition was that establishment of a missing persons committee should result from a meeting between him and Kyprianou although if Kyprianou continued to refuse to see Denktash he might even withdraw that condition. The Secretary said the missing persons question was important to help create a favorable atmosphere.

12. The Secretary said that when he met with Kyprianou on May 25 he would raise the idea of a Denktash-Kyprianou meeting. Denktash said that he thought the only way progress could be made was through a meeting of the two community leaders who had the responsibility to make decisions. Lower-level negotiations would bog down in press speculation, the constant need for instructions, etc. In his two meetings with Makarios, Denktash said there had been real breakthroughs and more could have been done if there had been less criticism of Makarios from other Greek Cypriots.

13. The Secretary said he felt there was a real opportunity to move forward with the Cyprus problem now. It would be a tragedy to miss this chance. Denktash said he wanted to get the process going and his May 22 statement had stressed that point.

14. The Secretary suggested to Denktash that when he meets with the House International Relations Committee May 25 it would be useful if he could convey a sense of flexibility and a willingness to achieve progress. In closing the meeting, the Secretary indicated that we would pursue the Varosha idea both with the UN and with the Greek Cypriots.

15. Prior to the Secretary’s meeting, Nimetz and Maynes discussed briefly with Denktash the June renewal of the UNFICYP mandate. Denktash said he was not informed of the status of current negotiations in Cyprus re: the status of UN forces in the north, but if such an agreement could be reached soon, he thought the Security Council in June should only extend the UNFICYP mandate for two or three months pending various developments including congressional action on the repeal of the Turkish embargo.

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16. Nimetz said such an effort by the Turkish Cypriots to use the UNFICYP mandate renewal as a weapon would not be helpful to the Turkish side in the eyes of U.S. opinion. He urged that Denktash consider whether such an approach would not be counter-productive. Maynes pointed out that such an effort could also have an unfortunate effect on the UN force itself. Denktash said that the Greek Cypriots would probably try to make substantive changes in the mandate. Such a move would open up the entire issue. Nimetz urged that all parties concentrate on the underlying problems of Cyprus at this key period.

  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; Immediate; Exdis. Sent for information Immediate to Ankara, Athens, and Nicosia; Priority to Bonn, Brussels (for the Embassy and USEEC), Copenhagen, London, Paris, and USNATO; and to USUN. Vance was in New York for the Special Session on Disarmament at the UN.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 54.
  3. The meeting was reported in telegram 2091 from USUN, May 24. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780218–1119)