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59. Memorandum of Conversation1

SUBJECT

  • Summary of the President’s Meeting with President Kyprianou of Cyprus

PARTICIPANTS

  • President Jimmy Carter
  • Warren Christopher, Deputy Secretary of State
  • Zbigniew Brzezinski, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
  • Matthew Nimetz, Counselor, Department of State
  • Jerrold Schecter, NSC Staff Member for Relations with the Press
  • Paul B. Henze (Notetaker), National Security Council Staff Member
  • Spyros Kyprianou, President of Cyprus
  • Nikos Rolandis, Foreign Minister
  • George Pelaghias, Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Nikolaos G. Dimitriou, Cypriot Ambassador to the United States

President Carter met President Kyprianou on the South Lawn and took him and his party to the Cabinet Room. The President began the discussion by saying that Secretary Vance had given him a report of his conversations with President Kyprianou.2 “We share your interest in bringing peace and basic human rights to Cypriots. As you know, we have a longstanding interest in trying to solve issues on Cyprus and I hope that we can make progress in the near future,” the President continued. “Secretary Vance has told me that you are prepared to begin negotiations with Mr. Denktaş. We hope that this could be on a continuing basis. One of the things we have learned the hard way in dealing with the Israelis and the Egyptians is that spasmodic meetings are completely fruitless and can even cause a deterioration of the relationship because so much energy is spent in trying to get people to meet and in the intervening periods both sides concentrate on analyzing their reasons for disagreement and do not want to meet again. I hope that it will now be possible for negotiations to begin on the basis that you described to Secretary Vance. We are glad to offer our good offices but the UN should be the primary group to whom you turn for arrangements. We want to be helpful without interfering,” the President concluded.

In replying, President Kyprianou , after thanking the President for receiving him and recalling their last meeting with pleasure, said he [Page 207]had always felt it would be more constructive for him to meet with Prime Minister Ecevit than with Mr. Denktaş but he recognized that Ecevit did not want to meet with him. Thus he came to the conclusion that he should meet with Denktaş, provided that “certain things are agreed beforehand.” “Just meeting and saying that we have failed will create more difficulties for everybody,” he declared. He went on to say that many people in Cyprus opposed his meeting with Denktaş because Denktaş was regarded as committed to partition since 1954, i.e. an extremist. Other Turkish Cypriot leaders, Kyprianou said, were more moderate but because of the presence of Turkish troops could not express themselves. Thus he was willing to meet Denktaş on condition that nothing become known until there was agreement on the basis of which they could continue negotiations. The concrete step could be the return of the Greek part of Famagusta, he said. Once this was done talks could continue on three conditions: (1) that UN resolutions, especially #3212, be recognized as valid;3 (2) that the existing Cyprus constitution of 1960, which was accepted by Britain, Greece and Turkey as well as both Cypriot communities and has not been replaced by anything else, would be recognized; and (3) that the four guiding principles which were agreed upon between Archbishop Makarios and Mr. Denktaş be considered valid.4 Within the framework of these three conditions, President Kyprianou said, “A more specific framework for a solution to the Cyprus problem could be developed.” He added that he agreed that negotiations that took place every six months could not lead to anything: “We should sit down for days and try to break the deadlock. I have to admit that with Denktaş it will be more difficult than it would be with Ecevit.” He said that their information indicated that the vast majority of Turkish Cypriots were eager for a settlement: “They live under conditions of misery; they have no work; they do not know what to do; they want to emigrate; they are not happy with the Turkish troops; they are not happy with the settlers brought from Turkey to change the demographic character of Cyprus.”

President Kyprianou reiterated his willingness to try negotiations with Denktaş but maintained there must be pressure on Denktaş from Ankara. “With all due respect, I believe your influence should be exercised in the direction of Ankara—they should change radically their attitude if we are going to achieve a solution—if we are going to approach the Cyprus problem in its complexity we will never solve it; it [Page 208]must be approached in its simplicity.” He complained that Cyprus could not negotiate on an equal basis with Turkey, but said that if the Turks were to agree to withdraw their troops from Cyprus and let them be replaced with an international police force, in which the U.S. could participate, then the Turkish Cypriots would be free to express their views. “I am sure that reconciliation would then be very easy. I am sure that past experience has taught both Greek and Turkish Cypriots that happiness lies in unity. If this does not happen, Cyprus will be a permanent source of friction between Greeks and Turks.” He concluded by saying that they had decided again to raise the Cyprus problem in the UN, both in the General Assembly and in the Security Council and ask for the implementation of UN resolutions. “Naturally we would like to have your support for this,” he declared.5

President Carter said Prime Minister Ecevit had assured him that Denktaş was willing to withdraw from Varosha. “I believe they will comply with this commitment,” the President added. The exact delineation of the withdrawal lines would have to be worked out, he noted. Until a settlement was achieved, however, the President said he thought it unrealistic to expect the Turks to withdraw all their troops from Cyprus. Mr. Christopher said the Turkish position was that they would withdraw their troops when a settlement had been reached except for troops that would be provided in the settlement agreement itself. The Turks were committed to drawing new boundaries between the Turkish and Greek communities in Cyprus, he added. The President asked about the boundaries of Varosha. Mr. Christopher said he assumed they could be agreed on and President Kyprianou replied that they would have to be worked out. He said there were differences between Greeks and Turks on the number of inhabitants thought to want to return to Varosha. They calculated 32,000 according to 1973 statistics, who could return now, but the Turks had been talking of 36,000. Some people might not want to return, he said, unless everyone returned. President Carter asked whether in referring to unanimous support for UN Resolution #3212, President Kyprianou meant that Turkey had also supported it. He did, President Kyprianou replied. Mr. Christopher said Turkey had supported it. President Carter then asked about the 1960 constitution. Mr. Christopher said it could be a basis for starting talks but it did not reflect the federal principles that were agreed upon between Makarios and Denktaş and these changes would have to be accepted.

President Kyprianou said the 1960 constitution would have to be applied practically. He maintained that Cyprus did not really have the prerequisites for a federal system because it was too small, but he said [Page 209]they were resigned to accepting it if the Turks insisted. President Carter asked whether Denktaş had reaffirmed his adherence to the agreements that he and Makarios had made. Mr. Christopher said he had and that he felt these principles could be regarded, and accepted by Denktaş as the basis for renewed negotiations.

“You would prefer that this be kept secret?” President Carter asked President Kyprianou, who answered “Yes.” President Carter stressed that the U.S. is not trying to inject itself into this situation but only wishes to assure both parties that its good offices are there to be drawn on.

President Kyprianou replied, “We need your assistance—I have one of the most difficult tasks to try to realize—a country which has been split by invasion. I need your assistance, for all human rights have been violated. Turkey must understand that a divided Cyprus or a Cyprus with a bad solution may simply be the beginning of a new Cyprus problem. We want to find a lasting solution. Federalism there may be—but there must also be unity.”

President Carter replied that he had found Ecevit to be quite forthcoming, especially in comparison to his predecessor. “He is willing to take steps that may not be popular in his own country. I have no way of knowing the relationship between Ecevit and Denktaş but I think that it is obvious that Ecevit would have some influence on Denktaş,” the President continued; “we look forward to exploring these next steps with you and then we can see whether what you propose is acceptable to Denktaş,” he added. He then asked President Kyprianou, “Do you have a preference where the future meetings might take place?”

President Kyprianou replied that they might take place in Cyprus—“I have no preference—as long as there is agreement in advance.” “Would Nicosia be a satisfactory place?” President Carter asked. President Kyprianou said that it would be. Mr. Christopher indicated that the State Department would start working on this question immediately with both parties. President Kyprianou said that he had told Secretary Vance that there must be a firm commitment on the part of the Turks for the withdrawal of Turkish troops from Cyprus.

President Carter said we felt we had that and the Turks were adhering to their promise to us: They had told us they would continue withdrawing troops and they had; they had notified us each time they planned to do so—“and our intelligence has indicated that they have done what they have told us they were going to do,” the President declared. Mr. Christopher said he expected the Turks to go on withdrawing troops in the course of negotiations. President Kyprianou came back to his earlier assertion: if it would be possible to withdraw all Turkish troops and have an independent force replace them, then settlement would be easier.

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“I agree that would be easier,” President Carter said, “but I do not think that it is accurate to anticipate that the Turks are going to withdraw their troops unilaterally. There is distrust on both sides and we would like to remove it.” “It is obvious to me after long talks with Ecevit that they would like to see this situation solved and they are willing to be much more flexible than I had observed a year ago,” the President declared, noting that other commitments made it necessary for him to bring the meeting to an end. He accompanied President Kyprianou and his party back to his car.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 36, Memcons: President: 10/78. Confidential. Drafted by Henze. The meeting took place in the White House Cabinet Room. Kyprianou was in the United States to attend the UN General Assembly.
  2. See Documents 54 and 55. The report referred to by Carter was not found.
  3. Resolution 3212 was adopted by the General Assembly on November 1, 1974. In calling for the validity of the resolution, Kyprianou was likely referring to its first provision calling on “all States to respect the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity, and non-alignment of the Republic of Cyprus and to refrain from all acts and interventions directed against it.” (Yearbook of the United Nations, 1974, p. 295)
  4. See footnote 5, Document 31.
  5. President Carter did not comment on this request. [Footnote in the original.]