79. Briefing Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Vest) to Acting Secretary of State Christopher1

Intercommunal Talks on Cyprus: Where Are They Going?

The resumption on August 9 by the Greek and Turkish Cypriots of long-recessed (since June 1979) intercommunal talks is a result of the parties’ desire to see the negotiating process begin again; hopefully in a serious, sustained manner. It also stemmed from painstaking efforts by UN Secretariat officials and the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Cyprus. A number of factors were relevant.

A. U.S. Role

As discussed below, we cannot, nor should we, claim any direct credit for the decision to resume the Cyprus negotiations. However, the Secretary’s conversations in Ankara in June with Turkish Prime Minister Demirel and Greek Foreign Minister Mitsotakis2 and the subsequent dialogue on Cyprus conducted by our Ambassadors in Ankara, Athens, and Nicosia may have helped move the process along. We have seen no evidence on this occasion of Ankara pressing Denktash to be more reasonable but there is reason to believe that the Rallis government did encourage Kyprianou to find a way to accept the U.N. opening statement so that negotiations could begin again.

B. Cypriot Domestic Politics

There has been growing impatience in Cyprus with President Kyprianou. He has been criticized strongly from left and right for his perceived failure to seize/take initiatives on the Cyprus issue. Recently, the Cypriot Communist Party (AKEL) broke with Kyprianou, ostensibly over his failure to explore initiatives to resolve this problem.

Moreover, Parliamentary elections are expected in September 1981. They will occur on a new proportional basis which will considerably erode Kyprianou’s political support. (The next Presidential election is scheduled for 1983.) Progress toward reaching a settlement would obviously strengthen Kyprianou’s electoral position.

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C. The Forthcoming UN Debate

The 1979 UNGA Resolution on Cyprus authorized the President of the General Assembly to form a Committee to “assist” the Secretary General unless he reported by March 31, 1980 progress in intercommunal negotiations.3 Since last fall, the Greek Cypriots have become less enamored with the committee idea (the Turks always opposed it) probably because they could not be assured control of the UN Committee no matter how docile, and because while the Committee might serve to cast world public attention on the Cyprus issue, it would retard, if not preclude, any concomitant negotiating effort.

Additionally, the Greek Cypriots were concerned as to what new “victory” they could hope to achieve at this year’s General Assembly. Thus, while the Greek Cypriots certainly have not given up on using the international arena to advance their cause in the future, they have apparently decided to play this year’s UNGA in low-key assuming talks are continuing through the fall. The Turkish Cypriots are always at a disadvantage at the UN and thus prefer an effort on the island.

D. The Libyan Connection

Recently, the Libyan Foreign and Information Ministers made separate visits to Cyprus attempting to arrange a Denktash-Kyprianou meeting in Tripoli under Qadhafi’s auspices. Both Denktash and Kyprianou were reluctant to reject flatly the Libyan proposal and the Libyans blandly (or cleverly) announced that it would take place. Resumed talks under UN aegis, however, take the Cypriots off the Libyan hook—a point both Denktash and Kyprianou recognized.

Decision to Resume Talks:

We had been aware over the last year of the protracted UN efforts to reopen the Cypriot intercommunal talks although not always informed about the specific details of each procedural formula of the opening statement to be used by the UN. Following the failure of a major effort by Perez de Cuellar in June involving visits to Cyprus, Ankara, and Athens, the UN did not disclose to us the specifics of subsequent discussions with the Cypriots and we did not press them for details. Recent reporting from Nicosia and Athens, however, indicated that both sides were examining renewed UN proposals and on August 4 Embassy Nicosia noted that Denktash had virtually accepted the latest formulation.4 A British Embassy official here showed us a cable [Page 262] from the British High Commission in Nicosia reporting that on August 4 the GOC was deeply engaged in reviewing the proposals but that no decisions had been made. For the most part, information came from UN officials in the field, not from UN headquarters in New York where the information was more closely held. Thus, we had a good deal of information about the UN process but were not aware that agreement was so close and that this would not be another case of one side agreeing to language while the other side raised problems. In any event, it is clear that a deal was struck only a few hours before the UN announcement on August 6.

Current Status:

The first formal ceremonial meeting of the resumed intercommunal talks took place on August 9. Hugo Gobbi, the UN Special Representative on Cyprus, who was largely responsible for working out the details over the last six weeks, read the opening statement (copy attached).5 This statement was the result of months of negotiations and actually outlines some of the major issues that will be discussed: a constitutional system that will be federal, a territorial solution that will be bizonal, priority to the Greek resettlement of Varosha, and attention to practical methods of achieving economic and humanitarian progress on the island. At some undefined early stage, negotiations on these four topics are to be delegated to committees. The security concerns of the Turkish Cypriots are also acknowledged to be something that must be addressed. All these ideas are descendants of the U.S. plan we submitted in 1978, and thus we can take justifiable pride in the role we have played.6 However, it is important the U.S. role be quiet and behind-the-scenes and that the UN remain out front.

Each of the areas for discussion has special difficulties. The Turkish Cypriots will juxtapose their requirements for “security” and a “bizonal” political structure with Greek Cypriot desires to recover occupied territory and preserve the unity of the Cypriot state. Clearly, there are tradeoffs between territory and constitutional aspects. Currently, the Turkish Cypriots (about 18 percent of the population) backed by the Turkish army hold approximately 37 percent of the island. This includes some of the best farming land and a major port and tourist area (Famagusta). Turkish seizure of these sectors in 1974 resulted in displacement of approximately 150,000 Greek Cypriots, many of whom still seek to return. This is particularly true of Varosha, which is a relatively new and potentially very profitable tourist city in [Page 263] the Turkish Cypriot zone now unpopulated. Clearly, territorial adjustments are possible; the Turks have indicated that the Turkish Cypriots will be flexible and the Greek Cypriots do not expect to limit Turkish Cypriots to only 18 percent of the island (Greek Cypriot interlocutors have privately suggested 25 percent). Denktash will be a tough negotiator on this subject as he will not want to displace resettled Turks.

Turkish Cypriot requirements on the constitutional/bizonality issues remain somewhat nebulous. Arguments have raged for years over what “bizonality” actually means. The Greek Cypriots claim the Turkish Cypriot goal is a confederal state so weak that the Turkish Cypriot sector will effectively be independent. (There are continuing reports that the Turkish Cypriot leader ultimately intends to seek independence for his area; however, there is no reason to think that the Turkish Government or any other government would tolerate such a unilateral action.) It is likely that the Turkish Cypriots would accept a federal structure with considerable local autonomy including a local police force and some access controls, ceding defense, foreign affairs and central bank powers to a Federal government.

Thus, while tradeoffs appear possible, the Turkish Cypriots recognize that territory is their strongest card and will seek maximum Greek Cypriot concessions on constitutional issues before agreeing on an overall package settlement.

Next Steps:

The atmosphere at the opening session August 9 was cordial and the meeting went very well. However, as was to be expected, shortly after the meeting President Kyprianou gave a press conference in which he “clarified” some of the terms under use, and reaffirmed his position that “bizonality” means partition and that all refugees must return to their homes. Denktash felt it necessary to respond, and the latest information is that some time after the Turkish “bayram” holiday ends on August 14, his government will meet to decide whether or not the Kyprianou statements are an impediment to continuing with the talks. We think that the talks will proceed as scheduled.

A Role for the U.S.:

We believe this round of talks will continue for some while and not be ruptured after a few days as was the case in 1979 since:

—The sequence of meetings (one meeting each week on four basic subject areas starting September 16) makes probable at least two months of negotiations;

—Both sides for reasons elaborated above should be willing at least to continue the talks through most of the UNGA session;

—Both sides recognize that an early breakdown of the talks would mean a protracted delay in further intercommunal talks. Thus, if not a [Page 264] “last chance,” these talks are surely the best chance for the immediate future of making progress to resolve outstanding issues. More importantly, this point seems to be realized by key figures in both communities.

In order to decide what the United States can and should do to facilitate the negotiations and to make them productive, it is important that we have a clear picture of United Nations thinking and plans. You will be meeting with Deputy Secretary General Perez de Cuellar on August 14, and Matt Nimetz will visit New York to speak with de Cuellar and Secretariat members who work on Cyprus on August 20.7 These two meetings will give us an opportunity to inform the UN on our recent conversations with the Cypriots and in Ankara and Athens, and to ask the Secretariat for more information about the talks and their plans for dealing with substance. We should also discuss ways we might be of assistance to the UN, bearing in mind that any US suggestion should be carefully designed so as not to complicate the UN effort.

Other actions we could consider are:

—Offer to contribute papers on the substance of a settlement for possible use by the Special Representative of the Secretary General in the continuing meetings.

—Investigate “practical measures” such as facilitating Turkish Cypriot economic activity, passport problems, missing persons, cooperation in communications, etc.

—Offer to make demarches to the interested parties to emphasize the importance of getting on seriously with the talks. One approach would be a Presidential letter to Kyprianou—and a letter from Secretary Muskie to Denktash—encouraging both to cooperate with Waldheim.

—Begin now to consider a visit to the island by you or another senior U.S. official at a time when it would help the Secretary General’s effort.

—Take another look at our November 1978 proposals to determine whether they could be reworked and presented again in a way that would make them more acceptable to all shades of Cypriot opinion.

—Consult again with other countries interested in achieving progress on Cyprus, particularly the British.

—Should they come to the General Assembly this fall, arrange for President Kyprianou and Denktash to be received by a suitably senior American official to press both to cooperate with the Secretary General.

If the UN Fails:

The United Nations Secretary General is really not in a position effectively to mediate the Cyprus problem since his mandate is to pro[Page 265]vide good offices and to facilitate intercommunal negotiations. There is, however, no interest on the part of most Greek Cypriots and all Turkish Cypriots in having the U.S. and/or some other interested country or a group of countries step in to try to replace the Secretary General and press the parties harder to meaningful negotiations. In any event, it would appear to be inopportune to consider this option when the Secretary General has just successfully restored the intercommunal dialogue.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Office of the Under Secretary of State for Security Assistance, Chron Files, Speeches and Papers of Lucy W. Benson (1979) and Matthew Nimetz (1980), Lot 81D321, Box 7, Matthew Nimetz Chron (August 1980–Dec 1980). Confidential. The memorandum was sent through Nimetz. Drafted by Dillery and Jones on August 12; cleared by Philip Wilcox (IO/UNP), Ewing, and Arthur M. Giese (T).
  2. See Documents 152 and 203.
  3. See footnote 5, Document 74.
  4. The Embassy reported Denktash’s reaction to the UN proposal in telegram 1900 from Nicosia, August 4. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800372–0928) The UN procedural proposals presented by Under Secretary General Pérez de Cuéllar are summarized in Yearbook of the United Nations, 1980, pp. 451–452.
  5. Attached but not printed is the August 9 opening statement of Hugo Gobbi, UN Special Representative in Cyprus, at the resumed intercommunal talks between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. The statement is ibid., pp. 453–454.
  6. See footnote 2, Document 61.
  7. According to telegram 220731 to USUN, August 19, Christopher and Pérez de Cuéllar actually met on August 15. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800396–0081)