58. Telegram From the Embassy in Cyprus to the Department of State1

2331. Subject: Nimetz Visit to Cyprus: Discussions With Turkish Cypriot Leader Denktash, September 6.

Summary: Counselor Nimetz and party met with Denktash for one hour September 6 and then continued discussions more informally with enlarged Turkish Cypriot delegation at luncheon in Famagusta. Denktash was moderate and emphasized willingness to sit down with Greek Cypriots at any time to discuss all the issues. He offered no new mechanism for resuming talks, claiming that he had made adequate offers, but was at least receptive to suggestions that UN might seek to draw up agenda for fresh round of negotiations and that 1960 Constitution could be modified to incorporate bizonality and federalism. While most skeptical of Kyprianou’s proposal for demilitarization, Denktash displayed interest in concept of economic development fund to assist Turkish Cypriots. He endorsed general idea of non-governmental dialogue, but was suspicious of Greek Cypriot purposes in wanting this. Small, non-violent demonstration took place outside Denktash’s residence during meeting. End summary.

1. Upon arrival at Denktash’s residence, Nimetz party was greeted by some 108 rightist demonstrators bearing signs protesting Nimetz visit and opposing any concessions to Greek Cypriots, especially over Famagusta. Demonstration was peaceful if noisy; chanting was clearly audible during private meeting with Denktash.

2. Nimetz opened discussion by clarifying procedures for lifting of Turkish embargo. Once President had made required initial certification to Congress, embargo would be removed unconditionally.2 There [Page 202] was requirement for report to Congress every sixty days, but no provision for re-imposition of embargo should we be unable to demonstrate progress at each interval. Subsequent requests to Congress for security assistance to Turkey and Greece would be accompanied by statements justifying such aid in the light of U.S. policy in the region; but this would not have any effect on removal of embargo. Denktash appeared reassured by this clarification, commenting that his concern over the embargo had been in its effect in alienating Turkey from the West.

3. Nimetz stressed to Denktash continued U.S. interest in seeing solution to Cyprus problem. Our concern was both humanitarian and based on realization that Greek-Turkish relations could not be restored fully until problem was resolved. Nimetz explained that purpose of current visit was to determine whether there were any prospects for forward movement and to see how the U.S. could best be of assistance to the parties. We would want to be in a position to be helpful should Waldheim ask for our advice. Nimetz noted that his talks on the Greek Cypriot side had gone better than expected. The GOC did not harp on the withdrawal of Turkish forces or the enforcement of UN resolutions. Rather, we encountered a promising mind-set in private conversations, and indications that serious thought was being given to the problem.

4. When Denktash recounted what he considered to be unrealistic demands on the other side, Nimetz stressed belief that there was in fact basis for bargaining. The Greek Cypriots had now returned to the Makarios-Denktash Guidelines, they accepted the concept of federation, and basically, they were ready to agree to bizonality. They appreciated, moreover, Turkish Cypriot concern over security and were prepared to make arrangements to satisfy this. Nimetz expressed belief that there should be enough ground in common to work something out, but that only way to accomplish anything was through negotiations. Denktash strongly concurred in the latter point; the table was the place to make suggestions and counter-suggestions.

5. Nimetz noted that there was a substantial political problem for each side in initiating negotiations. They could not accept the other’s proposals as a basis for talks, and yet they could not simply sit down with no advance substantive preparation. Denktash interjected that the Makarios-Denktash Guidelines afforded a sufficient base for starting negotiations—why not discuss each other’s interpretations of these? Nimetz accepted the notion of the Guidelines as a point of departure, but emphasized that the groundwork would have to be laid before any intercommunal sessions were held. Perhaps Waldheim or someone else could convoke preliminary discussions on the subjects to be discussed, with the aim of transforming the Guidelines into actual agenda items. Nimetz noted again that the GOC was not ready to negotiate in the abstract, and that it was politically very difficult for them to sit down with [Page 203] the Turkish Cypriot April 13 proposals on the table.3 Denktash maintained that the Turkish Cypriots had put forward their “biggest bait” and it had been rejected. He then recounted in some detail how Greek Cypriots had consistently rejected in past any and all proposals put forward by Turkish Cypriots. He underscored his readiness to discuss all issues, but what could he do if the other side would not sit down?

6. Revision of 1960 Constitution. Nimetz suggested that one negotiating path worth exploring would be modification of the 1960 Constitution, in accordance with the Makarios-Denktash Principles, to provide for a bizonal federation in Cyprus. This would give resumed negotiations form and substance, and would permit both sides to withdraw their own proposals without facing the unpromising prospect of an open agenda. Since the Greek Cypriots accepted both the 1960 Constitution and the Makarios-Denktash guidelines, this might well represent an acceptable face-saving device for them. Denktash explained that the 1960 Constitution had attempted to bridge what were quite opposite political aims on the part of the two Cypriot communities. Perhaps a more effective system could have evolved in time, but the Greek Cypriots had not allowed it to work. Denktash noted, however, that the concept of the 1960 Constitution was embodied in the April 13 proposals; he sought only to introduce the concepts of federalism and bizonality.

7. Return of refugees. Denktash argued that Greek Cypriot insistence that all refugees return to their homes amounted to undermining the concept of bizonality. He asserted that the Turkish Cypriots could not be dislocated once again, and that the only way to remove causes of friction was to allow the peoples of each community to live by themselves. Nimetz expressed his belief that the Greek Cypriots were realistic on this issue; they would insist that a certain number of refugees be allowed to return to their homes, but for practical purposes they envisaged the Turkish zone as overwhelmingly Turkish in population. This was a matter that would have to be resolved through quiet negotiations between the two sides. Nimetz underscored the political difficulties for the Greek Cypriots if they did not espouse the refugee cause; on the other hand, if the interest of the refugees could be stimulated, they could act as a useful pressure on the GOC as they had over Varosha. Nimetz pointed out to Denktash that legislation lifting embargo referred to return of refugees and not return of all refugees.4

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8. Demilitarization and security. Nimetz said that he had found on the Greek Cypriot side an appreciation for Turkish Cypriot security concerns. They wanted to satisfy these concerns, and believed that Kyprianou’s demilitarization proposal could accomplish this.5 Denktash was most skeptical. He described how, after the failure to form a Cypriot army in the early 1960’s, the Greek Cypriots had formed their own armed groups and had attacked the Turkish minority. On the basis of past experience, demilitarization meant that the Turks would be without arms while Greeks armed secretly. Denktash said that some form of disarmament could perhaps be arranged in the form of a renunciation of large weapons? But there would need to be sufficient forces on the island for the foreseeable future to back up settlement guarantees.

9. Economic assistance. Nimetz said that the Greek Cypriots had also expressed an understanding of the economic difficulties of the Turkish Cypriots and had indicated their readiness to extend some form of economic assistance in the event of a settlement. He reminded Denktash that in his statement before the HIRC on April 6 Secretary Vance had stated we might request additional funds from the Congress in the event of a settlement to ease the process of readjustment.6 It was our hope, Nimetz said, that a larger proportion of this aid could be channeled to the Turkish Cypriot side. The Greeks seemed to feel, however, that outside assistance would not be required, that the island had sufficient potential as a center for tourism and Middle Eastern economic activity to provide for the needs of both sides. Nimetz expressed his belief that some economic package beneficial to the Turkish side could be developed, and that negotiations on the subject could usefully be held in parallel with constitutional and territorial talks. Perhaps a joint fund could be established to finance projects in the north.

10. Denktash freely admitted that the Turkish Cypriots had severe economic problems. While he emphasized that outside assistance was needed right now, he nevertheless maintained that a development fund established simultaneously with a political settlement would be a good idea if it came without political strings. In this context, Denktash brought up the economic “boycott” against the north, charging that the Greek Cypriots were the ones creating barriers and calling on them to lift the “boycott” as a gesture of goodwill. The GOC was opposed to reopening Nicosia Airport because this would weaken the “boycott”. When Nimetz asked whether reopening the airport solely for UN use [Page 205] would be any easier, Denktash declared that this would only reinforce the “boycott” in that the UN would continue to refuse to utilize Ercan.

11. UN aspects. In response to Denktash query, Nimetz said that it was our impression that the GOC had not yet decided on a plan of action at the UN this fall. We had told them that any resort to the UN in a manner offensive to the other side would cause difficulties as far as resuming negotiations were concerned, and we felt that they appreciated this. Nimetz encouraged Denktash to work with Galindo-Pohl as a means of resolving concrete problems such as Varosha and missing persons and of moving to a resumption of full talks. Denktash said that he believes Waldheim had a significant role to play in a settlement, that he could make it a success. Nimetz added that we believed Waldheim and his associates could be usefully involved in preparing at least an agenda for the next round of talks.

12. Contacts between the communities. While endorsing general concept of instituting dialogue with Greek Cypriots in non-governmental channels, Denktash was chary of Greek Cypriot intentions in wanting to enter into such contacts. He felt that the purpose might be to demonstrate to the world that Cypriots of both communities could get along together, and that the Cyprus dispute was essentially one between Cyprus and Turkey. He interpreted the proposed Chrysostomos-Mufti meeting in this light, and felt that it would not be a good idea.7

13. As Nimetz party departed, demonstrators rushed into compound of Denktash residence and briefly jostled Denktash/Nimetz car. There was no violence, however. Denktash, who had been surprised and embarrassed at demonstration, expressed apologies to Nimetz at meeting and at subsequent luncheon. He later publicly criticized demonstrators in radio interview.

14. In company of Denktash, Nimetz party visited two mass graves of Turkish Cypriots killed in 1974 and briefly toured closed portion of Varosha. Denktash then hosted luncheon at Palm Beach (formerly Constantiya) Hotel in Varosha, at which Assembly President Korhan, negotiator Onan and a number of “TFSC” ministers were also present.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of the Office of the Deputy Secretary Warren Christopher, 1977–1980, Lot 81D113, Box 6, Cyprus File. Confidential; Priority; Exdis. Sent for information Priority to Ankara, Athens, London, Bonn, Paris, and USUN.
  2. See Document 121.
  3. See footnote 2, Document 52.
  4. Presidential Determination No. 78–18, September 26, formally lifting the U.S. arms embargo against Turkey included the following provision on the refugee issue in Cyprus: “That the Government of Turkey is acting in good faith to achieve a just and peaceful settlement of the Cyprus problem, the early peaceable return of refugees to their homes and properties, and continued removal of Turkish military troops from Cyprus in the context of a solution to the Cyprus problem, and the early serious resumption of intercommunal talks aimed at a just, negotiated settlement.” See Document 121.
  5. See Document 54.
  6. For Vance’s prepared statement before the Committee, see the Department of State Bulletin, May 1978, pp. 33–35.
  7. No record of this meeting was found.