77. Action Memorandum From the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs (Newlin) and the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Vest) to the Deputy Secretary of State (Christopher)1


  • Cyprus

This is in response to your request of April 8 for an analysis of the Cyprus situation; specifically, whether the time is ripe for a new U.S. initiative.2

Secretary-General Waldheim’s April 2 report to the General Assembly on Cyprus notes that his efforts have “not, so far, borne fruit”.3 Indeed, there has been no real progress in resuming the stalled intercommunal talks since they broke down in June 1979. Embassy Ankara has raised several important questions relating to the Cyprus issue. We believe it is time to reassess US Cyprus policy and explore possible methods of breaking the current deadlock.

US Interests

For both humanitarian and policy reasons, the US is clearly interested in a resolution of the Cyprus problem. While Cyprus is not the salient issue of controversy it was four years ago, it has the potential of re-surfacing as a major problem in our relationships in the eastern Mediterranean.

At the present time, the situation on the island is stable and international interest has declined. Traditional proponents of the Greek-Cypriot cause in the United States have markedly decreased the intensity and frequency of their efforts to prod the Administration to solve the Cyprus problem by taking an anti-Turkish line. Newspaper items on US-Turkey relations seldom mention Cyprus. At least for the present, both communities on Cyprus prefer the status quo to making the concessions that a compromise solution would entail. In light of the relative stability on the island and the back seat the issue has assumed [Page 257] in both US domestic and international politics, we must consider what options and risks we have before us as we pursue a Cyprus settlement.

Options for Resuming the Intercommunal Talks

There are several avenues open to attempt to move the negotiations off dead-center. (Pros and Cons of each option are listed in the Attachment).4

1. Continue to support Waldheim’s efforts. This would involve behind-the-scenes lobbying with the parties and public statements in support of Waldheim. This option would mean that the US should avoid activities which might give the impression we are taking an independent initiative.

2. A new US Initiative. This could be a low-key effort in normal diplomatic channels or could be a highly visible act such as a visit to the island by a senior US official, or a “Camp David” approach such as recently suggested in a House Subcommittee report. The latter would focus US and world opinion on Cyprus.

3. A British Initiative. Recent news reports have speculated that the Thatcher government, having succeeded in Rhodesia, might like to try to solve the Cyprus problem.

4. A Multi-Lateral Initiative. This would involve a joint effort by the US, UK, FRG, Canada and possibly France.

5. A Conference of the Guarantor Powers. This is the approach which produced the 1960 Constitution.

US Policy

None of the above options identified in our analysis (Attachment) has more than a slim chance of success. The political dynamics in the region are such that no party is so committed to achieving a solution that it is willing to make the required compromises. It is, however, essential that the UN effort continue so that when both sides’ firm positions gradually soften and eventually begin to converge, a mechanism is in place to facilitate negotiations. We believe that at least for the next several months, the United States should continue to support the Secretary-General’s efforts and try to ensure that no action endangers Waldheim’s efforts. This policy would require that we allow Waldheim alone to play the leading visible role as mediator. At the same time, we must actively discourage developments like the unilateral Turkish-Cypriot resettlement of Varosha, because they would sidetrack or even derail Waldheim’s good-offices mission.

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Long-Term Prospects for Cyprus

In effect, Cyprus negotiations are already underway. Each side is publicly and privately developing and defining its position. It will take a long time before uncompromising attitudes on central issues evolve into attitudes which would promote the understanding and acceptance of concepts which will be vital to a permanent solution.

There have been some basic changes since 1974. “Enosis” is no longer a live cause among Greek-Cypriots. The Greek-Cypriots are no longer able to pursue what appeared to be their unwritten policy of systematically discouraging Turkish-Cypriot presence on the island. The Turkish-Cypriots enjoy security and autonomy but no longer benefit from the Greek-Cypriot economy and do not receive international recognition. For many reasons, the Athens government is less interested in active participation in Cypriot affairs.

Both communities are beginning to realize that they must compromise to achieve a solution. The Greek-Cypriots are becoming aware that the world community will not or cannot force the Turkish Army to leave the island without an overall settlement and that the political conditions prior to August 1974 will not return. By the same token, the Turkish-Cypriots may eventually realize that the world will not accept them as an independent state and that they cannot survive in an economically isolated condition.

Neither the US nor any other power can create the pre-conditions for a solution. Those changes must come from the Cypriots themselves. In fact, a bold initiative runs the risk of actually worsening the prospects for a solution. For the moment, it may be best to allow time to run its course and, in the process, erode the hardened positions until both communities reach the point where they have the will to resolve their dispute. At that time it might be useful for an outside interested party to offer once again to be helpful. We should continue to consult with the UK, FRG, Canada and France and to monitor the situation to determine when the time is right for a new initiative.

Current State of Play

The President of the General Assembly has not yet decided to appoint the committee authorized by the last UNGA Cyprus resolution. It is safe to assume that he would accede to GOC pressure to form the committee should Kyprianou decide that a committee is necessary.5 For the present time, the GOC appears to be willing to allow some time to pass before it decides how to proceed on the committee issue.

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The UNFICYP mandate renewal will be before the Security Council in June. At that time, Waldheim will issue a report on the peacekeeping operation and good-offices efforts in Cyprus for the past six months. It is possible that the Security Council discussion on UNFICYP could flare up into a contentious debate between the two sides, but we believe that the Council will renew the mandate as it did last December without reopening old wounds. We plan to contact all concerned parties before the debate and make clear our concern that no one do or say anything during the UNFICYP renewal debate which might endanger the Secretary-General’s good-offices effort.

We are approaching the season when the GOC resorts to international conferences like the Non-Aligned Meeting and the UNGA to score propaganda victories for its cause. Experience has shown that any attempt to undertake a Cyprus initiative during this “internationalization season” is fruitless.


That the US continue to consult with all parties in support of the Secretary-General’s good-offices effort. We would also remain in close and continuing contact with the UN and renew our offer to assist the Secretary-General in any appropriate manner. Under current circumstances, we would not undertake a new initiative during the remainder of this year but would begin now to consult with the British and our other allies to get their views on how an initiative might usefully be promoted in the first quarter of 1981 when there should be a “window” in the internationalization season.6

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Office of the Under Secretary for Security Assistance, Portions of 1980 Security Assistance Subject and Country Files, Lot 82D197, Box 3, Cyprus (S.A. 1980). Secret. Drafted by James E. Tobin (EUR/SE) on April 24; cleared by Dillery, Peter Bridges (IO/UNP), and Ewing. Sent through Nimetz.
  2. Not found.
  3. See footnote 2, Document 76.
  4. Attached but not printed is a paper titled “Cyprus: Options for Resuming the Intercommunal Talks,” which presents a number of “pros” and “cons” for how the United States could help move the stalled negotiations forward.
  5. See footnote 2, Document 73, and footnote 5, Document 74.
  6. In the last sentence Christopher placed brackets before “during” and at the end of the sentence and wrote in the left-hand margin, “at this time, but will keep the matter under review.” He approved the recommendation on May 2.