71. Memorandum From the Counselor of the Department of State (Nimetz) to the Deputy Secretary of State (Christopher)1


  • The Cyprus Situation


  • USUN 3713, dated 9/11/792

The day before yesterday you asked me for my views concerning the assessment of a UN official that Turkish Prime Minister Ecevit felt the May 19 Kyprianou-Denktash agreement was an unacceptable basis for negotiations. EUR has prepared a review of the present state of the Cyprus negotiations, which I am attaching. My personal views are the following:

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—There is little reason to expect a resumption of productive Cyprus intercommunal talks in the near term.

—The Cypriot Greeks will concentrate on the UN forum through December. The Turks will be preoccupied with elections, political and domestic issues in the coming months.

—As long as there is hope that SYG Waldheim will bring the two sides back to the conference table, we must back him fully.

—Based on our information, we cannot confirm the reports that Ecevit found the May 19 document unacceptable and that he instructed the Turkish Cypriots to stall the negotiations indefinitely.3

—However, as noted above, Ecevit is increasingly preoccupied with his own shaky political situation and has less time for and interest in the Cyprus problem.

—As the November 30 deadline for the UN SYG Cyprus report approaches, the two Cypriot parties may, however, show some more flexibility vis-a-vis the Waldheim good-offices effort to avoid being blamed in the report for lack of progress.


Paper Prepared in the Bureau of European Affairs, Department of State4

The Present State of the Cyprus Negotiations

REF: USUN 3713 (attached)5

We agree with Sherry that there is little reason to expect a resumption of the Cyprus intercommunal talks in the near term. The parties remain fundamentally divided on the nature of a final settlement. They have argued indirectly since June 22 over how to resume their direct dialogue, but the makings of an agreement to negotiate are lacking. Neither side is willing to give up its major trump—for the Greek Cypriots, the lifting of the economic blockade; for the Turkish Cypriots, the re[Page 242]opening of Varosha to resettlement—until the other makes prior concessions. This approach effectively precludes a pragmatic approach to the many aspects of the Cyprus problem. After more than a decade of fitful starts and stops, the intercommunal talks have gone nowhere.

The Cypriot communities have no historical experience of successful negotiation with each other. Outside powers imposed the London-Zurich Accords on them in 1959.6 Between independence and late 1963, the two communities frustrated each other, thus making the Accords unworkable. Between 1964 and 1967, the Greek Cypriots dominated the Turkish Cypriots. Between 1968 and mid-1974, the intercommunal talks made no progress because the Turkish side was too weak and the Greek side too demanding. Since 1974, the Turkish side has pressed its advantage and the Greek side has been under no effective inducement to yield.

It sometimes appears that the USG is the only government which truly wants a successful negotiation of the Cyprus problem. Since 1963, we have submitted more plans and devoted more time to this problem than have all other outside powers. Unable to bring about a negotiated settlement, we have sought as a policy goal to establish and to maintain a process of intercommunal negotiation, in order to meet our minimal requirements. Unfortunately, our leverage has been insufficient to alter the posture of either party to the Cyprus dispute.

At present, we see no alternative to continued support of Waldheim’s good-offices effort. That effort brought about the May 19 Kyprianou-Denktash agreement—the only significant point on which the two sides have agreed in the past 30 months. So long as there is hope that Waldheim will bring the two sides back to the conference table, we must back him fully. Specifically, we must continue to argue for resumption of the talks on the basis of the May 19 agreement, a document which incorporates by reference the 1977 Makarios-Denktash guidelines and the pertinent UN resolutions. We shall be considering what steps we might take if this effort fails, but we see no reason for us to get out in front of Waldheim until the fate of his initiative is known.

We disagree with Sherry’s evaluation that Ecevit decided to scotch the talks after May 19, or that he found the May 19 document unacceptable. Ecevit is preoccupied with his own shaky political position and elections in October. However, acceding to the May 19 agreement cost him little, if anything, in Turkey. We do not see how resumption of the talks would hurt him prior to the elections next month. The reality on the Turkish side is probably more subtle—i.e., to the extent that Ecevit dwells increasingly on his domestic predicament, he has less time for [Page 243] the Cyprus problem which thus falls prey to the inflexibility of the Turkish bureaucracy. On the other hand, there is reason to believe that, after hearing Solarz’s frank review of the situation in Congress, Ecevit recently directed the GOT to show more “flexibility” on the Waldheim statement.

The calendar offers further reason not to expect a near-term resumption of the talks. We are now in the annual season of “internationalization”. The GOC recently won victories at the Commonwealth meeting in Lusaka and the Nonaligned Summit in Havana.7 It will certainly seek a strong Cyprus resolution in the UNGA, and possibly also in the UNSC. This pursuit gives the other side, in Ankara and in Nicosia, an excuse for its own posturing and temporizing.

There are two rays of hope on this rather gloomy horizon. First, the UN may soon conduct an effective “informal consultation” between the two sides, either in New York or in Nicosia. Second, the UNSYG must send his Cyprus report to the Security Council by November 30. Neither side wants to be cited in that document as the reason for the lack of progress in the intercommunal talks. There is thus a chance that, as the November 30 date approaches, the two parties will agree to certain minimal steps that could enable the Waldheim good-offices effort to continue.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Records of the Office of the Deputy Secretary Warren Christopher, 1977–1980, Lot 81D113, Box 9, Memos from WMC to Offices/Bureaus—1979. Confidential. John King, Nimetz’ Special Assistant, initialed for Nimetz.
  2. Attached but not printed is telegram 3713 from USUN, September 11, which reported that UN efforts had failed to make progress on the Cyprus negotiations.
  3. See Document 70.
  4. Confidential; Exdis. Drafted by James A. Williams (EUR/SE) on September 13; cleared by Dillery, Sharon E. Ahmad (EUR), Melvyn Levitsky (IO/UNP), and John Nix (IO/UNP).
  5. See footnote 2 above. The telegram characterized Sherry as “gloomy” regarding the status of the negotiations because “both parties will continue to hold adamantly to fundamentally irreconcilable positions.”
  6. See footnote 3, Document 8.
  7. The Cyprus dispute was a topic of discussion at international meetings beyond the UN. In telegram 2701 from Lusaka, August 8, the Embassy reported on the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting held in Lusaka, Zambia, during August 1979. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790359–0452) The conference communiqué, dated August 7, called for a resolution of the Cyprus conflict along lines that could be interpreted as favoring the Greek Cypriot side. The communiqué called for the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 355 (1974), which called for the territorial integrity and non-alignment of Cyprus and the removal of foreign troops from the island. (Yearbook of the United Nations, 1974, p. 292) The last point was an implicit but clear reference to the ongoing occupation of northern Cyprus by the Turkish military. Speaking as host of the Nonaligned Movement summit of 1979, held in Havana, Cuban President Fidel Castro addressed the UN General Assembly on October 12, during which he also criticized the occupation of Cyprus by foreign troops.