70. Memorandum From the Deputy Secretary of State (Christopher) to Vice President Mondale1


  • Cyprus Negotiations

The Cyprus intercommunal talks resumed as scheduled on June 15, but major difficulties soon arose over the agenda and the U.N. decided to call a recess on June 22 rather than risk a complete breakdown of the negotiations. Over the past month U.N. representatives in Cyprus have held informal consultations with both sides in an effort to break this deadlock, but their efforts have thus far proved unavailing.

The current dispute between the Cypriot parties is on the surface a procedural one—whether the negotiations will commence with point two (definitions) or point five (Varosha) of the Nicosia communique of [Page 239] May 19.2 But this disagreement reflects clear substantive differences as well as a persistent mutual distrust between the parties. The Greek Cypriots want to see Varosha opened to resettlement as quickly as possible both as a test of Turkish good faith and as a means of assuring domestic support for the negotiating track, while the Turkish Cypriots are concerned about yielding Varosha without first having obtained a Greek Cypriot commitment to the fundamentals (as defined by the Turkish Cypriots) of an overall settlement. In recent meetings with U.N. representatives the Greek Cypriots seem to have shown some flexibility, but thus far the Turkish Cypriots have said that they cannot even discuss Varosha unless they have some assurances as to the general shape of an overall settlement.

The reasons for the Turkish Cypriot attitude are unclear. They may simply be stalling, or it may be that they are genuinely concerned that the Greek Cypriots’ intention is simply to take back Varosha and not continue with serious negotiations on the principal constitutional and territorial issues. The U.N. ascribes the Turkish Cypriots’ negativism to the current political situation in Turkey. With a very precarious hold on power and with elections due in October, Prime Minister Ecevit, they maintain, is in no position to pressure the Turkish Cypriots into making concessions.

With these questions in mind we approached the Turkish Government to probe their intentions with respect to Cyprus. High-ranking Foreign Ministry officials with whom we spoke stoutly defended the Turkish Cypriot position, but at the same time assured us that the Turkish side remains interested in a Cyprus settlement and gave indications that they might be prepared to reach a compromise arrangement that would allow talks to proceed on Varosha in exchange for certain Greek Cypriot assurances. Our assessment is that, while the domestic political situation indeed acts as a serious constraint, the Turks’ delaying tactics are primarily prompted by substantive concerns over Greek Cypriot intentions. This gives us some cause to hope that a formula can be devised to resolve the present deadlock. But this will require an intensified effort by the U.N., which plays the key mediatory role.

Indeed, one of the problems we have detected over the past week or so is a waning in the U.N.’s interest in actively pursuing a resolution of the deadlock. In an effort to reactivate the U.N. role, I raised the Cyprus question with Kurt Waldheim yesterday and urged him to do [Page 240] what he could to end the negotiating recess as soon as possible.3 He said that the internal Turkish situation probably precluded any progress for the moment, but undertook to instruct his representatives in Nicosia to make a further effort with the Cypriot parties. We are asking our Mission in New York to follow up with the U.N. Secretariat on this and to pass to them certain suggestions for a scenario to overcome the deadlock.

  1. Source: Carter Library, Donated Material, Papers of Walter F. Mondale, Office of the Vice President, Box 205, Memos from the VP to the President, [7/1/1979–9/2/80]. Confidential. Mondale forwarded the memorandum to Carter on July 27 and commented: “Mr. President, attached is a memorandum that Warren Christopher prepared for me on the status of the current Cyprus negotiations. You will notice the last paragraph indicates some sign that the U.N. is weakening in its assertiveness in trying to bring about a solution. I hope that when you meet Waldheim, you will press him for progress in this area.” (Ibid.)
  2. See Document 67.
  3. No substantive record of a meeting between Christopher and Waldheim on July 25 was found. Waldheim met with Carter on July 30 in the Cabinet Room; the portion of the conversation on Cyprus is as follows: “Waldheim acknowledges some slippage since the successful 19 May negotiations. The Turks, according to him, now want to change the terms, have ‘Bizonality’ clarified, and secure better provision for ‘security arrangements.’ The Secretary-General stated his intention to pursue the matter actively through his Special Representative. He commented that Prime Minister Ecevit doesn’t seem to want to get in too deeply prior to October elections in Turkey.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Country Chron File, Box 51, UN: 1979)