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

2993. Subj: Independence and Turkish Cyprus. Ref: Nicosia 2853.2

1. C-Entire text.

2. This is a reporting message.

3. Summary: Discreet soundings indicate that the Turkish Cypriot “government” is likely to avoid a unilateral declaration of independence (UDI), despite political weakness in Ankara. As GOC internationalization of the Cyprus problem continues, Turkish Cypriots are becoming increasingly resigned to regularizing and expanding what they generally regard as their already independent status as the only credible alternative to their present ambiguous position. However, most envisage gradual progress toward a recognized independence grounded on expanding economic self-sufficiency, and would oppose any abrupt move that would jeopardize existing, painfully won economic relations with Europe and the Middle East. Denktash may well use Greek Cypriot excesses during the UN debates as a pretext for a carefully measured political move toward a greater degree of independence. We now judge, however, that he will stop far short of UDI, except in the unlikely event that sanctions are approved by the UN. End summary.

4. With Senate elections likely to produce a government crisis in Ankara, it appeared possible that a resulting relaxation in Ankara’s control over Turkish Cypriot affairs would give “President” Denktash greater scope to move toward seeking recognition of the independence of Turkish Cyprus (reftel). Over the past few days we have explored this possibility with Turkish Cypriot contacts. Although we avoided direct approaches to the question, which might be misinterpreted, we gained a much improved understanding of their attitudes toward independence.

5. While many if not most Turkish Cypriots continue to view a bizonal federal concept as an ideal solution of the Cyprus problem, increasing numbers, including interlocutor Onan and Denktash’s economic advisor Tatar, are beginning privately to express a loss of faith in this ideal and to discuss the need for fuller independence. Their confi[Page 245]dence in the potential for a negotiated settlement has been seriously eroded by continued Greek Cypriot internationalization of the Cyprus problem on the heels of what they regard as Greek Cypriot intransigence in intercommunal talks. They feel that internationalization demonstrates the absence of any genuine Greek Cypriot desire for a settlement that will take into account the interests of both sides.

6. This does not mean, however, that Turkish Cypriots—other than a few extreme rightists—favor immediate UDI. Instead, most favor building a sound economy as a foundation for eventual political independence. Even working level contacts in the “MFA” gave priority to increasing export and tourism revenues, which they fear would drop if a dramatic move toward independence brought world disapproval, let alone formal UN sanctions. “Finance Minister” Hakki Atun fully appreciates, for example, that a separate currency, essential to full independence, cannot be established until the economy is on a firmer footing. (Institution of a separate currency would of course be a significant signal to the Greek Cypriots of the reality of Turkish Cypriot independence, while at the same time freeing the Turkish Cypriots from dependence on the troubled Turkish lira.) These and other contacts believe that recognition by other states and representation in international forums will follow eventually, at least in part as a result of expanding trade relations. Also, much faith has been placed in the Islamic community and efforts continue to be made to find Islamic sources of finance and loan guarantees. They see no reason to jeopardize the possibility of developing such relations or what most perceive to be growing prosperity, only to achieve equal footing with Greek Cypriots in the war of words that they are already resigned to losing.

7. The threat of seeking international recognition for what “President” Denktash describes as their already independent state is one of the few elements of bargaining leverage that Turkish Cypriots possess. In public statements “President” Denktash implies that UDI, or at least a more recognizable degree of independence, will be a necessary reaction to continued GOC internationalization of the Cyprus problem. Privately, he advocates UDI explicitly as a means of promoting a federal solution by putting the two sides on an equal footing. His “government” occasionally takes measures to expand Turkish Cypriot independence in reaction to GOC moves seen as unfavorable to the Turkish Cypriot position. The decision to require the use of “TFSC” postage stamps by Greek Cypriots living in the “TFSC”, in reaction to a GOC move at the UPU Congress to ban “TFSC” stamps, is the most recent example.3 The question of whether the goal is a genuine federal solution [Page 246] on acceptable terms or complete and viable independence can best be answered by pointing out that the two possibilities are complementary. Both are acceptable to the Turkish Cypriots and neither need be sacrificed until the other is in sight.

8. Possible moves which Denktash may take, should he decide that the GOC has badly overplayed its hand at the UN, include announcement of recognition by another country, probably Muslim if there are any takers, or dropping the word “federated” from “Turkish Federated State of Cyprus”. The latter subtlety would present the GOC with a de jure confirmation of the present de facto situation. Either move, to have practical effect, would have to receive at least tacit acceptance from Western countries which perceive that the GOC has obtained an unnecessarily harsh Cyprus resolution in the UNGA. On the basis of our recent explorations, we believe that Denktash will not repeat not opt for UDI. The situation would be drastically altered should the UN adopt sanctions, since the Turkish Cypriots would no longer have anything to lose in declaring UDI. We are not sure the GOC realizes this, but it appears to have given up on sanctions this year as unattainable.

9. Whatever emerges from this year’s UN consideration of Cyprus, the Turkish Cypriots will continue to develop more complete independence for their state unless or until the GOC offers serious, credible proposals for a federal solution that adequately protect, in Turkish Cypriot eyes, the interests of the Turkish Cypriots. For reasons rooted in its own internal politics, the GOC is likely to remain incapable of moving in this direction for the foreseeable future.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Bureau of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, 1979—Human Rights and Country Files, Lot 82D103, Box 2, Cyprus 1979. Confidential; Immediate. Sent for information to Ankara, Athens, Bonn, London, Paris, Ottawa, and USUN.
  2. Telegram 2853 from Nicosia, October 9, is in the National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790462–0753.
  3. Reference is to the Universal Postal Union, an agency that advises the UN on international matters as they relate to postal cooperation among nations.